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Neuron. 2009 Sep 24;63(6):854-64. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.09.005.

Representations of odor in the piriform cortex.

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Department of Neuroscience and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.

Erratum in

  • Neuron. 2009 Oct 29;64(2):292.


Olfactory perception is initiated by the recognition of odorants by a large repertoire of receptors in the sensory epithelium. A dispersed pattern of neural activity in the nose is converted into a segregated map in the olfactory bulb. How is this representation transformed at the next processing center for olfactory information, the piriform cortex? Optical imaging of odorant responses in the cortex reveals that the piriform discards spatial segregation as well as chemotopy and returns to a highly distributed organization in which different odorants activate unique but dispersed ensembles of cortical neurons. Neurons in piriform cortex, responsive to a given odorant, are not only distributed without apparent spatial preference but exhibit discontinuous receptive fields. This representation suggests organizational principles that differ from those in neocortical sensory areas where cells responsive to similar stimulus features are clustered and response properties vary smoothly across the cortex.

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