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J Neurophysiol. 1989 May;61(5):1085-94.

Amplifying role of convergence in olfactory system a comparative study of receptor cell and second-order neuron sensitivities.

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Laboratoire de Physiologie Neurosensorielle, Université Claude Bernard, Lyon, France.


1. Extracellular unitary responses of receptor cells of second-order neurons identified as output cells were recorded in the frog. Four odorants of defined concentrations distributed over a wide range were delivered in the form of 2-s square pulses to the olfactory mucosa with a multistage dynamic flow dilution olfactometer. Bulbar responses were studied under two conditions, the stimuli being delivered either to the ventral or to the entire mucosa. 2. Overall responsiveness of the cells was compared. For the second-order neurons, the response ratio (excitation or inhibition) clearly depended on the condition of stimulation when the entire mucosa was stimulated, the bulbar response ratio was increased, as compared with that obtained when only the ventral mucosa received stimuli. Furthermore, when the stimuli were delivered to the whole mucosa, the bulbar excitation ratio was found to be similar to those of receptor cells and second-order neurons. 3. Response thresholds were determined from a comparison of the interspike interval values in the 30-s pre- and in the 12-s poststimulus time periods, using the Mann-Whitney U test (Table 2). The distribution of response thresholds of receptor cells as a function of stimulus concentration did not significantly differ from that of second-order neurons as excited by stimulating the ventral mucosa. These two distributions differed significantly from the distribution of second-order neurons as stimulated through the entire mucosa. In this last experimental condition, the bulbar neurons displayed an improved sensitivity. 4. The overall recruitment process, represented by the cumulative percentage of cells responding with excitation as a function of concentration, was found to be continuous over the entire concentration range. At the bulbar level, when the entire mucosa was stimulated, the recruitment occurred at lower concentrations than when only the ventral mucosa was stimulated. In this last case, the dynamics of the bulbar recruitment did not differ from that of receptor cells. 5. The recruitment process was further studied for each stimulus, for receptor cells as well as for second-order neurons. Differences in recruitment were found between stimuli and, as for the bulbar neurons, they depended on the condition of stimulation. 6. The main outcome of these results is the demonstration that the convergence of receptor cells onto second-order neurons is functionally implicated in an amplification process of the primary signal in olfaction.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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