Local neurons play key roles in the mammalian olfactory bulb

J Physiol Paris. 2003 Jul-Nov;97(4-6):517-28. doi: 10.1016/j.jphysparis.2004.01.009.


Over the past few decades, research exploring how the brain perceives, discriminates, and recognizes odorant molecules has received a growing interest. Today, olfaction is no longer considered a matter of poetry. Chemical senses entered the biological era when an increasing number of scientists started to elucidate the early stages of the olfactory pathway. A combination of genetic, biochemical, cellular, electrophysiological and behavioral methods has provided a picture of how odor information is processed in the olfactory system as it moves from the periphery to higher areas of the brain. Our group is exploring the physiology of the main olfactory bulb, the first processing relay in the mammalian brain. From different electrophysiological approaches, we are attempting to understand the cellular rules that contribute to the synaptic transmission and plasticity at this central relay. How olfactory sensory inputs, originating from the olfactory epithelium located in the nasal cavity, are encoded in the main olfactory bulb remains a crucial question for understanding odor processing. More importantly, the persistence of a high level of neurogenesis continuously supplying the adult olfactory bulb with newborn local neurons provides an attractive model to investigate how basic olfactory functions are maintained when a large proportion of local neurons are continuously renewed. For this purpose, we summarize the current ideas concerning the molecular mechanisms and organizational strategies used by the olfactory system to encode and process information in the main olfactory bulb. We discuss the degree of sensitivity of the bulbar neuronal network activity to the persistence of this high level of neurogenesis that is modulated by sensory experience. Finally, it is worth mentioning that analyzing the molecular mechanisms and organizational strategies used by the olfactory system to transduce, encode, and process odorant information in the olfactory bulb should aid in understanding the general neural mechanisms involved in both sensory perception and memory. Due to space constraints, this review focuses exclusively on the olfactory systems of vertebrates and primarily those of mammals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Mammals
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology*