Associative Encoding in Posterior Piriform Cortex During Odor Discrimination and Reversal Learning

Cereb Cortex. 2007 Jun;17(6):1342-9. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhl045. Epub 2006 Aug 1.


Recent proposals have conceptualized piriform cortex as an association cortex, capable of integrating incoming olfactory information with descending input from higher order associative regions such as orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala (ABL). If true, encoding in piriform cortex should reflect associative features prominent in these areas during associative learning involving olfactory cues. We recently reported that neurons in anterior piriform cortex (APC) in rats exhibited significant plasticity in their responses to odor cues during associative learning. Here, we have repeated this study, recording from neurons in posterior piriform cortex (PPC), a region of piriform cortex that receives much stronger input from ABL. If associative encoding in piriform cortex is driven by inputs from ABL, then we should see more plasticity in PPC neurons than we observed in APC. Consistent with this hypothesis, we found that PPC neurons were highly associative and appeared to be somewhat more likely than neurons recorded in APC to alter their responses to the odor cues after reversal of the odor-outcome associations in the task. Further, odor-selective PPC populations exhibited markedly different firing patterns based on the valence of the odor cue. These results suggest associative encoding in piriform cortex is represented in a topographical fashion, reflecting the stronger and more specific input from olfactory bulb concerning the sensory features of odors in anterior regions and stronger input from ABL concerning the meaning of odors in posterior regions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / cytology
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Male
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / cytology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reversal Learning / physiology*