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J Comp Neurol. 2006 Jul 20;497(3):350-66.

Chemotopic representations of aromatic odorants in the rat olfactory bulb.

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Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California 92697-4550, USA.


Our laboratory has characterized spatial patterns of evoked neural activity across the entire glomerular layer of the rat olfactory bulb using primarily aliphatic odorants that differ systematically in functional groups and hydrocarbon structures. To represent more fully the true range of odorant chemistry, we investigated aromatic compounds, which have a more rigid molecular structure than most aliphatic compounds and are particularly salient olfactory stimuli for humans. We first investigated glomerular patterns of 2-deoxyglucose uptake in response to aromatic compounds that differ in the nature and position of their functional groups (e.g., xylenes, trimethylbenzenes, tolualdehydes, benzaldehydes, methyl toluates, and anisaldehydes). We also studied the effects of systematic increases in the number and length of alkyl substituents. We found that most aromatic compounds activated glomeruli in the dorsal part of the bulb. Within this general area, aromatic odorants with oxygen-containing substituents favored activation of more rostral regions, and aromatic hydrocarbons activated more posterior regions. The nature of substituents greatly affected the pattern of glomerular activation, whereas isomers differing in substitution position evoked very similar overall patterns. These relationships between the structure of aromatic compounds and their spatial representation in the bulb are contrasted with our previous findings with aliphatic odorants.

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