Representations of odors in the rat orbitofrontal cortex change during and after learning

Behav Neurosci. 2002 Jun;116(3):421-33.


Cells in the orbitofrontal cortex (OF) respond to odors and their associated rewards. To determine how these responses are acquired and maintained, the authors recorded single OF units in rats performing an odor discrimination task. Approximately 64% of all cells differentiated between rewarded and nonrewarded odors. These odor valence responses changed during learning in 26% of all cells, and these changes were positively correlated with improving performance, supporting the idea that the information provided by these cells is used in learning the task. However, changes in odor valence responses were also observed after learning, and included not only increases in odor discrimination, but also decreases or mixed increases and decreases. Thus, only some of the changes in firing reflected acquisition of the task. The results suggest that learning triggers a continuing reorganization of OF neural ensembles representing odors and their rewards.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Odorants*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Smell / physiology*