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Decoding the logic of olfaction

ay that information is being mapped onto the cortex," said Buck. "We don't know what that logic is, but it seems as if it has something to do with the molecular features of the odorant."

The researchers also found, however, that only a small fraction of neurons from the olfactory cortex that receive input from a single type of receptor were activated by concentrations of odorants normally found in the environment. "One intriguing possible explanation for this discrepancy is that the cortical neurons might be acting as 'coincidence detectors,'" said Buck. "They might respond only when they get input from more than one type of odorant receptor. And this is fascinating because each odorant is recognized by a combination of odorant receptors."

Buck explained that any odorant is first "deconstructed" by the olfactory system by a combination of receptors. And the signals from those receptors are transmitted separately all the way through the olfactory bulb to the olfactory cortex. "So, if these neurons are really coincidence detectors, what we might be seeing is at least an initial step in the reconstruction of an 'odor image' from its deconstructed features," she said.


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Source:Howard Hughes Medical Institute


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