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J Neurosci. 2012 Apr 25;32(17):5772-82. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6225-11.2012.

Antennal lobe processing correlates to moth olfactory behavior.

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Department of Evolutionary Neuroethology, Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Ecology, 07745 Jena, Germany.


Animals typically perceive their olfactory environment as a complex blend of natural odor cues. In insects, the initial processing of odors occurs in the antennal lobe (AL). Afferent peripheral input from olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) is modified via mostly inhibitory local interneurons (LNs) and transferred by projection neurons (PNs) to higher brain centers. Here we performed optophysiological studies in the AL of the moth, Manduca sexta, and recorded odor-evoked calcium changes in response to antennal stimulation with five monomolecular host volatiles and their artificial mixture. In a double staining approach, we simultaneously measured OSN network input in concert with PN output across the glomerular array. By comparing odor-evoked activity patterns and response intensities between the two processing levels, we show that host mixtures could generally be predicted from the linear summation of their components at the input of the AL, but output neurons established a unique, nonlinear spatial pattern separate from individual component identities. We then assessed whether particularly high levels of signal modulation correspond to behavioral relevance. One of our mixture components, phenyl acetaldehyde, evoked significant levels of nonlinear input-output modulation in observed spatiotemporal activation patterns that were unique from the other individual odorants tested. This compound also accelerated behavioral activity in subsequent wind tunnel tests, whereas another compound that did not exhibit high levels of modulation also did not affect behavior. These results suggest that the high degree of input-output modulation exhibited by the AL for specific odors can correlate to behavioral output.

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