Imaging and coding in the olfactory system

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2001;24:963-79. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.24.1.963.


Functional imaging methods permit analysis of neuronal systems in which activity is broadly distributed in time and space. In the olfactory system the dimensions that describe odorant stimuli in "odorant space" are still poorly defined. One way of trying to characterize the attributes of this space is to examine the ways in which its dimensions are encoded by the neurons and circuits making up the system and to compare these responses with physical-chemical attributes of the stimuli and with the output behavior of the animal. For documenting distributed events as they occur, imaging methods are among the few tools available. We are still in the early stages of this analysis; however, a number of recent studies have contributed new information to our understanding of the odorant coding problem. This paper describes imaging results in the context of other data that have contributed to our understanding of how odors are encoded by the peripheral olfactory pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology
  • Smell / physiology