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Brain Res Bull. 2010 Mar 16;81(4-5):406-15. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2009.10.022. Epub 2009 Nov 11.

All-or-none population bursts temporally constrain surround inhibition between mouse olfactory glomeruli.

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Department of Physiology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


With each sniff, the olfactory bulbs of the brain generate a neural activity pattern representing the odour environment, transmitting this to higher brain centres in the form of mitral cell output. Inhibitory circuits in the olfactory bulb glomerular and external plexiform layers may amplify contrast in these patterns, through surround inhibition of mitral cells. These circuits may operate in series, but their respective roles are unclear. A single sniff is sufficient for odour discrimination, but is not clear that the inhibitory circuits act within this timeframe. We used microdissected slices of mouse olfactory bulb to study each circuit in isolation. We found that unlike surround inhibition mediated in the external plexiform layer, surround inhibition mediated in the glomerular layer was activated by sensory synaptic input, but not by mitral cell output. The results also suggest that interactions between olfactory glomeruli are exclusively inhibitory, unlike in antennal lobe, and that surround inhibition mediated within the external plexiform layer may involve neural circuit elements not preserved in slice preparations. Surround inhibition was effective only after an interval corresponding to a single sniff in vivo. Surplus excitation, initiated by sensory input but generated by collective all-or-none responses of mitral cells, may delay surround inhibition and allow the synchronous activation of multiple glomeruli without each suppressing the other. Surround inhibition in the glomerular layer may subsequently allow a fresh representation of the odour environment to be generated with each sniff. These findings are consistent with combinatorial odour coding based on all-or-none glomerular responses.

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