Intensity versus identity coding in an olfactory system

Neuron. 2003 Sep 11;39(6):991-1004. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2003.08.011.


We examined the encoding and decoding of odor identity and intensity by neurons in the antennal lobe and the mushroom body, first and second relays, respectively, of the locust olfactory system. Increased odor concentration led to changes in the firing patterns of individual antennal lobe projection neurons (PNs), similar to those caused by changes in odor identity, thus potentially confounding representations for identity and concentration. However, when these time-varying responses were examined across many PNs, concentration-specific patterns clustered by identity, resolving the apparent confound. This is because PN ensemble representations changed relatively continuously over a range of concentrations of each odorant. The PNs' targets in the mushroom body-Kenyon cells (KCs)-had sparse identity-specific responses with diverse degrees of concentration invariance. The tuning of KCs to identity and concentration and the patterning of their responses are consistent with piecewise decoding of their PN inputs over oscillation-cycle length epochs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Grasshoppers / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mushroom Bodies / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Odorants*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Smell / physiology*