Locus coeruleus activation modulates firing rate and temporal organization of odour-induced single-cell responses in rat piriform cortex

Eur J Neurosci. 2002 Dec;16(12):2371-82. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.2002.02413.x.


Piriform cortex (PCx) is the primary cortical projection region for olfactory information and has bidirectional monosynaptic connections with olfactory bulb and association cortices. PCx neurons display a complex receptive field, responding to odours rather than their molecular components, suggesting that these neurons are involved in higher order olfactory processing. Neuromodulators, especially noradrenaline (NA), have important influences on sensory processing in other cortical regions and might be responsible for the plasticity observed in PCx during learning. The present study is the first attempt to examine in vivo the actions of NA on sensory responses in the PCx. Stimulation of the noradrenergic nucleus locus coeruleus (LC) was used to induce release of NA in the forebrain in urethane-anaesthetized rats. Extracellular recording of single units was made simultaneously in anterior and posterior PCx. The responses to an odour stimulus were measured over 25 trials. Twenty-five subsequent odour presentations were preceded by stimulation of the ipsilateral LC through a bipolar electrode, previously placed in the LC under electrophysiological control. This priming stimulation modified the activity of 77 of the 135 recorded neurons. For most cells, LC stimulation enhanced cortical responses to odour in terms of both spike count and temporal organization, with some differential effects in anterior and posterior regions. These results are the first to show enhancement of sensory responses in the olfactory cortex by LC activation. Spontaneous activation of LC neurons such as occurs during learning could serve to enhance olfactory perception and promote learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology
  • Learning / physiology
  • Locus Coeruleus / cytology
  • Locus Coeruleus / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / injuries
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism*
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Pathways / cytology
  • Olfactory Pathways / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Norepinephrine