Reproducibility of odor maps by fMRI in rodents

Neuroimage. 2006 Jul 1;31(3):1238-46. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.12.060. Epub 2006 Apr 24.


The interactions of volatile odorants with the approximately 1000 types of olfactory receptor neurons in the olfactory mucosa are represented in the olfactory bulb by glomerular spatial activity maps. If these spatial maps underlie the perceptual identification of odorants then, for a given organism, they must be both specific and reproducible. However, this intra-organism reproducibility need not be present between organisms because genetic and developmental studies of olfactory bulb wiring suggest that there is substantial variation between the glomerular arrangements of closely related organisms and even between the two bulbs in a given animal. The ability of functional MRI (fMRI) to record responses of the entire rodent olfactory bulb repeatedly within the same subject has made it possible to assess the reproducibility of odor-induced spatial activity maps both within and between subjects exposed to equivalent stimuli. For a range of odorants, representing multiple chemical classes, a level of fMRI reproducibility (at 7.0 T and 9.4 T) comparable or superior to other cortical regions was demonstrated. While the responses of different bulbs to the same odorant could be localized within the same broad regions of the glomerular sheet, the precise magnitude and topology of the response within those regions were both often highly variable. These results demonstrate the robustness of high-field fMRI as a tool for assaying olfactory bulb function and provide evidence that equivalent perceptual outcomes may arise from divergent neural substrates.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Smell / physiology*


  • Oxygen