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J Neurophysiol. 2015 Jul;114(1):736-45. doi: 10.1152/jn.00902.2014. Epub 2015 Jun 3.

Coding of odor stimulus features among secondary olfactory structures.

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Department of Neurosciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio; and.
Department of Neurosciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio; and Department of Biology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio


Sensory systems must represent stimuli in manners dependent upon a wealth of factors, including stimulus intensity and duration. One way the brain might handle these complex functions is to assign the tasks throughout distributed nodes, each contributing to information processing. We sought to explore this important aspect of sensory network function in the mammalian olfactory system, wherein the intensity and duration of odor exposure are critical contributors to odor perception. This is a quintessential model for exploring processing schemes given the distribution of odor information by olfactory bulb mitral and tufted cells into several anatomically distinct secondary processing stages, including the piriform cortex (PCX) and olfactory tubercle (OT), whose unique contributions to odor coding are unresolved. We explored the coding of PCX and OT neuron responses to odor intensity and duration. We found that both structures similarly partake in representing descending intensities of odors by reduced recruitment and modulation of neurons. Additionally, while neurons in the OT adapt to odor exposure, they display reduced capacity to adapt to either repeated presentations of odor or a single prolonged odor presentation compared with neurons in the PCX. These results provide insights into manners whereby secondary olfactory structures may, at least in some cases, uniquely represent stimulus features.


adaptation; intensity; learning; olfaction; perception

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