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:3/22/2016)... 22, 2016 According ... Market for Consumer Industry by Type (Image, Motion, ... (Communication & IT, Entertainment, Home Appliances, & ... to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market ... reach USD 26.76 Billion by 2022, at ...
(Date:3/18/2016)... --> --> ... & Unmanned Vehicles, Physical infrastructure and Perimeter Surveillance & Detection ... border security market and the continuing migration crisis in the ... has led visiongain to publish this unique report, ... defence & security companies in the border security ...
(Date:3/15/2016)... , March 15, 2016 Yissum ... , the technology-transfer company of the Hebrew University, announced ... of remote sensing technology of various human biological indicators. ... raising $2.0 million from private investors. ... based on the detection of electromagnetic emissions from sweat ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/28/2016)... ... April 28, 2016 , ... As part of ... industry experts, and expanding its LATAM network and logistics capabilities. Enhancements have ... manage their clinical trial projects. , The expansion will provide unmatched clinical trial ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... Boston (PRWEB) , ... April 27, 2016 , ... ... driven by semantic web technology, today announced that it has been named to The ... life sciences, financial services and other markets, Cambridge Semantics serves the needs of end ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... 27, 2016 , ... The Pittcon Organizing Committee is pleased to announce that ... volunteer member of Committee since 1987. Since then, he has served in a number ... was chairman for both the program and exposition committees. In his professional career, Dr. ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... April 27, 2016 NanoStruck ... (OTCPink: NSKQB) ( Frankfurt : 8NSK) ... Pressemitteilung vom 13. August 2015 die Genehmigung von ... um zusätzliche 200.000.000 Einheiten auf 400.000.000 Einheiten zu ... bringen. Davon wurden 157.900.000 Einheiten mit dem ersten ...
Breaking Biology Technology: