Olfactory system gamma oscillations: the physiological dissection of a cognitive neural system

Cogn Neurodyn. 2008 Sep;2(3):179-94. doi: 10.1007/s11571-008-9053-1. Epub 2008 Jun 19.


Oscillatory phenomena have been a focus of dynamical systems research since the time of the classical studies on the pendulum by Galileo. Fast cortical oscillations also have a long and storied history in neurophysiology, and olfactory oscillations have led the way with a depth of explanation not present in the literature of most other cortical systems. From the earliest studies of odor-evoked oscillations by Adrian, many reports have focused on mechanisms and functional associations of these oscillations, in particular for the so-called gamma oscillations. As a result, much information is now available regarding the biophysical mechanisms that underlie the oscillations in the mammalian olfactory system. Recent studies have expanded on these and addressed functionality directly in mammals and in the analogous insect system. Sub-bands within the rodent gamma oscillatory band associated with specific behavioral and cognitive states have also been identified. All this makes oscillatory neuronal networks a unique interdisciplinary platform from which to study neurocognitive and dynamical phenomena in intact, freely behaving animals. We present here a summary of what has been learned about the functional role and mechanisms of gamma oscillations in the olfactory system as a guide for similar studies in other cortical systems.