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Brain Res. 1990 Apr 16;513(2):225-36.

Peripheral mechanisms of olfactory discrimination of complex mixtures by the spiny lobster: no cell types for mixtures but different contributions of the cells to the across neuron patterns.

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Department of Biology, Georgia State University, Atlanta 30303.


Toward understanding mechanisms of olfactory discrimination, we have examined the existence of cell types and the role of cells in the coding of odorant quality in the olfactory organ of the spiny lobster. The results consisted of responses of 30 antennular chemoreceptor cells to 8 behaviorally discriminable complex stimuli--4 natural extracts and 4 artificial mixtures, each at 3 concentrations. Multidimensional scaling and cluster analysis failed to identify unequivocal cell types, but rather suggested a continuum of cellular response profiles. The lack of cell types suggests that the code for the quality of natural odorants in this system is a population code. The distribution of cells along the response continuum was based on any of many features of their response profiles. The most effective stimulus (= best stimulus) and the least effective stimulus (= least stimulus), two features of the response profiles, could only partially explain the differences in response profiles of cells. Nonetheless, cells with different response profiles were shown to have different functions in odorant coding. Most cells contribute to some degree to the discrimination of any two stimuli, but a cell's contribution to the discrimination of two stimuli is usually disproportionally robust when those two stimuli produce very different responses in that cell.

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