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Nat Neurosci. 2004 Aug;7(8):862-71. Epub 2004 Jul 25.

Multiplexing using synchrony in the zebrafish olfactory bulb.

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Max-Planck-Institute for Medical Research, Department of Biomedical Optics, Jahnstr. 29, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


In the olfactory bulb (OB) of zebrafish and other species, odors evoke fast oscillatory population activity and specific firing rate patterns across mitral cells (MCs). This activity evolves over a few hundred milliseconds from the onset of the odor stimulus. Action potentials of odor-specific MC subsets phase-lock to the oscillation, defining small and distributed ensembles within the MC population output. We found that oscillatory field potentials in the zebrafish OB propagate across the OB in waves. Phase-locked MC action potentials, however, were synchronized without a time lag. Firing rate patterns across MCs analyzed with low temporal resolution were informative about odor identity. When the sensitivity for phase-locked spiking was increased, activity patterns became progressively more informative about odor category. Hence, information about complementary stimulus features is conveyed simultaneously by the same population of neurons and can be retrieved selectively by biologically plausible mechanisms, indicating that seemingly alternative coding strategies operating on different time scales may coexist.

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