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Fast odour dynamics are encoded in the olfactory system and guide behaviour

Ackels, T; Erskine, A; Dasgupta, D; Marin, AC; Warner, TPA; Tootoonian, S; Fukunaga, I; ... Schaefer, AT; + view all (2021) Fast odour dynamics are encoded in the olfactory system and guide behaviour. Nature 10.1038/s41586-021-03514-2. Green open access

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Abstract

Odours are transported in turbulent plumes, which result in rapid concentration fluctuations1,2 that contain rich information about the olfactory scenery, such as the composition and location of an odour source2,3,4. However, it is unclear whether the mammalian olfactory system can use the underlying temporal structure to extract information about the environment. Here we show that ten-millisecond odour pulse patterns produce distinct responses in olfactory receptor neurons. In operant conditioning experiments, mice discriminated temporal correlations of rapidly fluctuating odours at frequencies of up to 40 Hz. In imaging and electrophysiological recordings, such correlation information could be readily extracted from the activity of mitral and tufted cells—the output neurons of the olfactory bulb. Furthermore, temporal correlation of odour concentrations5 reliably predicted whether odorants emerged from the same or different sources in naturalistic environments with complex airflow. Experiments in which mice were trained on such tasks and probed using synthetic correlated stimuli at different frequencies suggest that mice can use the temporal structure of odours to extract information about space. Thus, the mammalian olfactory system has access to unexpectedly fast temporal features in odour stimuli. This endows animals with the capacity to overcome key behavioural challenges such as odour source separation5, figure–ground segregation6 and odour localization7 by extracting information about space from temporal odour dynamics.

Type: Article
Title: Fast odour dynamics are encoded in the olfactory system and guide behaviour
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03514-2
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03514-2
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Science & Technology - Other Topics
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > UK Dementia Research Institute
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Neuro, Physiology and Pharmacology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10128367
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