Odor perception and olfactory bulb plasticity in adult mammals

J Neurophysiol. 2009 May;101(5):2204-9. doi: 10.1152/jn.00076.2009. Epub 2009 Mar 4.


The adult mammalian olfactory bulb (OB) is unique in that olfactory sensory neurons project directly, without prior thalamic relay, to the OB. This review discusses evidence for the direct involvement of the OB in odor perception and its modulation by olfactory experience. We first discuss recent data showing that the OB exhibits a high level of plasticity in response to olfactory experience including exposure, enrichment, and learning. We next review evidence showing that, in return, experimental manipulation of the OB neural network changes how odorants are processed and perceived. We finally review in more detail a few experiments showing a tight correlation between the modulation of OB neural processing and odor perception. We argue that the OB has evolved to be an adapting network, allowing animals to adjust olfactory computations to changing environments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mammals / anatomy & histology
  • Mammals / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Odorants*
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*