Non-specific olfactory aversion induced by intrabulbar infusion of the GABA(A) receptor antagonist bicuculline in young rats

Neuroscience. 2002;112(4):901-6. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(02)00117-3.


On postnatal day 12, young rats show an aversion to an odor to which they had been exposed along with presentations of foot shock on postnatal day 11. The acquisition of this aversive learning involves and requires disinhibition of the mitral/tufted cells induced by centrifugal noradrenergic activation during somatosensory stimulation. This olfactory learning is established only for the odor to which the rat has been exposed during conditioning. Infusion of the GABA(A) receptor antagonist bicuculline at a high dose (2.0 nmol/each olfactory bulb) into the olfactory bulb in the presence of an odor is capable of developing olfactory aversive responses without somatosensory stimulation in young rats. The purpose of this study is to characterize the properties of bicuculline-induced aversive responses. In contrast to the odor specificity of aversive learning produced by odor-shock conditioning, bicuculline-induced aversive responses lack odor specificity. Namely, bicuculline infusion in the presence of a citral odor results, in a dose-dependent manner, in subsequent aversive responses to strange odors (benzaldehyde and vanillin) that have never been presented. Moreover, bicuculline infusion alone is sufficient to produce dose-dependent aversive responses to strange odors (citral, benzaldehyde and geraniol). From these results we suggest that disinhibition of mitral/tufted cells from granule cells by bicuculline infusion makes young rats aversive to strange odors non-specifically, as if the rats had learned the odor aversion as a result of odor exposure paired with foot shock. Different mechanisms of disinhibition of the mitral/tufted cells may underlie both the pharmacological manipulation and noradrenergic activation by somatosensory stimulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning
  • Bicuculline / pharmacology*
  • Discrimination Learning* / physiology
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists*
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects*
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / drug effects*
  • Olfactory Bulb / growth & development
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology
  • Smell / drug effects*


  • GABA Antagonists
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Bicuculline