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J Comput Neurosci. 1996 Mar;3(1):51-72.

Coding of odor intensity in a steady-state deterministic model of an olfactory receptor neuron.

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Laboratoire de Biométrie, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Versailles, France. rospars@bmve01,versailles,


The coding of odor intensity by an olfactory receptor neuron model was studied under steady-state stimulation. Our model neuron is an elongated cylinder consisting of the following three components: a sensory dendritic region bearing odorant receptors, a passive region consisting of proximal dendrite and cell body, and an axon. First, analytical solutions are given for the three main physiological responses: (1) odorant-dependent conductance change at the sensory dendrite based on the Michaelis-Menten model, (2) generation and spreading of the receptor potential based on a new solution of the cable equation, and (3) firing frequency based on a Lapicque model. Second, the magnitudes of these responses are analyzed as a function of odorant concentration. Their dependence on chemical, electrical, and geometrical parameters is examined. The only evident gain in magnitude results from the activation-to-conductance conversion. An optimal encoder neuron is presented that suggests that increasing the length of the sensory dendrite beyond about 0.3 space constant does not increase the magnitude of the receptor potential. Third, the sensitivities of the responses are examined as functions of (1) the concentration at half-maximum response, (2) the lower and upper concentrations actually discriminated, and (3) the width of the dynamic range. The overall gain in sensitivity results entirely from the conductance-to-voltage conversion. The maximum conductance at the sensory dendrite appears to be the main tuning constant of the neuron because it determines the shift toward low concentrations and the increase in dynamic range. The dynamic range of the model cannot exceed 5.7 log units, for a sensitivity increase at low odor concentration is compensated by a sensitivity decrease at high odor concentration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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