Navigation Links
Mice that 'smell' light could help us better understand olfaction
Date:10/17/2010

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Harvard University neurobiologists have created mice that can "smell" light, providing a potent new tool that could help researchers better understand the neural basis of olfaction.

The work, described this week in the journal Nature Neuroscience, has implications for the future study of smell and of complex perception systems that do not lend themselves to easy study with traditional methods.

"It makes intuitive sense to use odors to study smell," says Venkatesh N. Murthy, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard. "However, odors are so chemically complex that it is extremely difficult to isolate the neural circuits underlying smell that way."

Murthy and his colleagues at Harvard and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory used light instead, applying the infant field of optogenetics to the question of how cells in the brain differentiate between odors.

Optogenetic techniques integrate light-reactive proteins into systems that usually sense inputs other than light. Murthy and his colleagues integrated these proteins, called channelrhodopsins, into the olfactory systems of mice, creating animals in which smell pathways were activated not by odors, but rather by light.

"In order to tease apart how the brain perceives differences in odors, it seemed most reasonable to look at the patterns of activation in the brain," Murthy says. "But it is hard to trace these patterns using olfactory stimuli, since odors are very diverse and often quite subtle. So we asked: What if we make the nose act like a retina?"

With the optogenetically engineered animal, the scientists were able to characterize the patterns of activation in the olfactory bulb, the brain region that receives information directly from the nose. Because light input can easily be controlled, they were able to design a series of experiments stimulating specific sensory neurons in the nose and looking at the patterns of activation downstream in the olfactory bulb.

"The first question was how the processing is organized, and how similar inputs are processed by adjacent cells in the brain," Murthy says.

But it turns out that the spatial organization of olfactory information in the brain does not fully explain our ability to sense odors. The temporal organization of olfactory information sheds additional light on how we perceive odors. In addition to characterizing the spatial organization of the olfactory bulb, the new study shows how the timing of the "sniff" plays a large part in how odors are perceived.

The paper has implications not only for future study of the olfactory system, but more generally for teasing out the underlying neural circuits of other systems.


'/>"/>

Contact: Steve Bradt
steve_bradt@harvard.edu
617-496-8070
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. New findings on taste and smell
2. Could smell play a role in the origin of new bird species?
3. Smelling the scenery in stereo
4. Monell Center joins with CAS to host Beijing meeting on taste and smell research
5. How the 100th protein structure solved at Diamond impacts our understanding of how insects smell
6. Stop and smell the flowers -- the scent really can soothe stress
7. Penn State entomologists seek fungus to blunt mosquitoes sense of smell
8. New findings in taste and smell
9. Rice University psychologist finds womens brains recognize, encode smell of male sexual sweat
10. Bumblebees learn the sweet smell of foraging success
11. Deprived of a sense of smell, worms live longer
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/26/2016)... and LONDON , April 26, ... of EdgeVerve Systems, a product subsidiary of Infosys ... announced a partnership to integrate the Onegini mobile ...      (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151104/283829LOGO ) ... customers enhanced security to access and transact across ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... April 15, 2016  A new partnership announced ... accurate underwriting decisions in a fraction of the ... priced and high-value life insurance policies to consumers ... With Force Diagnostics, rapid testing (A1C, Cotinine ... readings (blood pressure, weight, pulse, BMI, and activity ...
(Date:4/13/2016)... -- IMPOWER physicians supporting Medicaid patients in Central ... in telehealth thanks to a new partnership with higi. ... patients can routinely track key health measurements, such as ... when they opt in, share them with IMPOWER clinicians ... retail location at no cost. By leveraging this data, ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... , June 27, 2016  Sequenom, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... to enabling healthier lives through the development of innovative ... of the United States denied ... that the claims of Sequenom,s U.S. Patent No. 6,258,540 ... eligibility criteria established by the Supreme Court,s Mayo Collaborative ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... -- Liquid Biotech USA , Inc. ... Research Agreement with The University of Pennsylvania ("PENN") ... patients.  The funding will be used to assess ... outcomes in cancer patients undergoing a variety of ... to support the design of a therapeutic, decision-making ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , ... June 24, 2016 , ... Researchers at the ... commonly-identified miRNAs in people with peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings are the subject ... it now. , Diagnostic biomarkers are signposts in the blood, lung fluid or ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 A person commits a crime, and ... to track the criminal down. An outbreak of ... Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence to track down the ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA has increasingly used a ... of foodborne illnesses. Put as simply as possible, whole genome ...
Breaking Biology Technology: