Precision and diversity in an odor map on the olfactory bulb

Nat Neurosci. 2009 Feb;12(2):210-20. doi: 10.1038/nn.2262. Epub 2009 Jan 18.


We explored the map of odor space created by glomeruli on the olfactory bulb of both rat and mouse. Identified glomeruli could be matched across animals by their response profile to hundreds of odors. Their layout in different individuals varied by only approximately 1 glomerular spacing, corresponding to a precision of 1 part in 1,000. Across species, mouse and rat share many glomeruli with apparently identical odor tuning, arranged in a similar layout. In mapping the position of a glomerulus to its odor tuning, we found only a coarse relationship with a precision of approximately 5 spacings. No chemotopic order was apparent on a finer scale and nearby glomeruli were almost as diverse in their odor sensitivity as distant ones. This local diversity of sensory tuning stands in marked distinction from other brain maps. Given the reliable placement of the glomeruli, it represents a feature, not a flaw, of the olfactory bulb.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Female
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Models, Neurological
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / cytology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / cytology
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics
  • Receptors, Odorant / metabolism
  • Smell / physiology*


  • Receptors, Odorant
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins