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PLoS Comput Biol. 2018 Nov 13;14(11):e1006586. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006586. eCollection 2018 Nov.

Moth olfactory receptor neurons adjust their encoding efficiency to temporal statistics of pheromone fluctuations.

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Institute of Physiology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic.
Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, INRA, Versailles, France.
Peuplements végétaux et bioagresseurs en milieu végétal, CIRAD, Université de la Réunion, Saint Pierre, Ile de la Réunion, France.


The efficient coding hypothesis predicts that sensory neurons adjust their coding resources to optimally represent the stimulus statistics of their environment. To test this prediction in the moth olfactory system, we have developed a stimulation protocol that mimics the natural temporal structure within a turbulent pheromone plume. We report that responses of antennal olfactory receptor neurons to pheromone encounters follow the temporal fluctuations in such a way that the most frequent stimulus timescales are encoded with maximum accuracy. We also observe that the average coding precision of the neurons adjusted to the stimulus-timescale statistics at a given distance from the pheromone source is higher than if the same encoding model is applied at a shorter, non-matching, distance. Finally, the coding accuracy profile and the stimulus-timescale distribution are related in the manner predicted by the information theory for the many-to-one convergence scenario of the moth peripheral sensory system.

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