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Neuron. 2004 May 13;42(3):437-49.

Altered representation of the spatial code for odors after olfactory classical conditioning; memory trace formation by synaptic recruitment.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030 USA.


In the olfactory bulb of vertebrates or the homologous antennal lobe of insects, odor quality is represented by stereotyped patterns of neuronal activity that are reproducible within and between individuals. Using optical imaging to monitor synaptic activity in the Drosophila antennal lobe, we show here that classical conditioning rapidly alters the neural code representing the learned odor by recruiting new synapses into that code. Pairing of an odor-conditioned stimulus with an electric shock-unconditioned stimulus causes new projection neuron synapses to respond to the odor along with those normally activated prior to conditioning. Different odors recruit different groups of projection neurons into the spatial code. The change in odor representation after conditioning appears to be intrinsic to projection neurons. The rapid recruitment by conditioning of new synapses into the representation of sensory information may be a general mechanism underlying many forms of short-term memory.

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