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J Comp Neurol. 2010 May 1;518(9):1542-55. doi: 10.1002/cne.22289.

Glomerular activity patterns evoked by natural odor objects in the rat olfactory bulb are related to patterns evoked by major odorant components.

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


To determine how responses evoked by natural odorant mixtures compare to responses evoked by individual odorant chemicals, we mapped 2-deoxyglucose uptake during exposures to vapors arising from a variety of odor objects that may be important to rodents in the wild. We studied 21 distinct natural odor stimuli ranging from possible food sources such as fruits, vegetables, and meats to environmental odor objects such as grass, herbs, and tree leaves. The natural odor objects evoked robust and surprisingly focal patterns of 2-deoxyglucose uptake involving clusters of neighboring glomeruli, thereby resembling patterns evoked by pure chemicals. Overall, the patterns were significantly related to patterns evoked by monomolecular odorant components that had been studied previously. Object patterns also were significantly related to the molecular features present in the mixture components. Despite these overall relationships, there were individual examples of object patterns that were simpler than might have been predicted given the multiplicity of components present in the vapors. In these cases, the object patterns lacked certain responses evoked by their major odorant mixture components. These data suggest the possibility of mixture response interactions and provide a foundation for understanding the neural coding of natural odor stimuli.

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