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J Comput Neurosci. 1998 Jul;5(3):243-66.

Dendritic integration in olfactory sensory neurons: a steady-state analysis of how the neuron structure and neuron environment influence the coding of odor intensity.

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  • 1Unité de Biométrie, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Versailles, France.


Response properties of the receptor potential at steady state were analyzed in a biophysical model of an olfactory sensory neuron embedded in a multicell environment. The neuron structure was described as a set of several identical dendrites (or cilia) bearing the transduction mechanisms, joined to a nonsensory part--dendritic knob, soma, and axon. The different ionic compositions of the media surrounding the neuron sensory and nonsensory parts and the extraneuronal voltage sources, which both result from the presence of auxiliary cells, were also taken into account. Analytical solutions were found to describe how the receptor potential at the nonsensory part responds to a uniform change in the odorant-dependent conductance resulting from odorant stimulation of the sensory dendrites. We investigated the influence of various geometrical and electrical parameters on the receptor-potential response in the classical model neuron within a homogeneous environment and in the model neuron surrounded with auxiliary cells. First, it was found that the maximum amplitude of the receptor potential is independent of the neuron structure in the absence of auxiliary cells but not in their presence. In the latter case, the amplitude decreases with the length and number of sensory dendrites and with the input resistance of the nonsensory part. Second, the sensitivity (as measured by the increase in membrane conductance at half-maximum response) of the neuron model in the absence of auxiliary cells is higher, but its dynamic range is narrower than in their presence. The dynamic range is wide and the sensitivity low when the input resistance of the nonsensory part is small and the sensory dendrite is unbranched. Both sensitivity and dynamic range are higher for a longer dendrite. These results help understand the morphology of insect olfactory sensilla and can be generalized to other neuron types.

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