Each down stroke of an insect's wings accelerates axial airflow over the antennae. Modeling studies suggest that this can greatly enhance penetration of air and air-born odorants through the antennal sensilla thereby periodically increasing odorant-receptor interactions. Do these periodic changes result in entrainment of neural responses in the antenna and antennal lobe (AL)? Does this entrainment affect olfactory acuity? To address these questions, we monitored antennal and AL responses in the moth Manduca sexta while odorants were pulsed at frequencies from 10-72 Hz, encompassing the natural wingbeat frequency. Power spectral density (PSD) analysis was used to identify entrainment of neural activity. Statistical analysis of PSDs indicates that the antennal nerve tracked pulsed odor up to 30 Hz. Furthermore, at least 50% of AL local field potentials (LFPs) and between 7-25% of unitary spiking responses also tracked pulsed odor up to 30 Hz in a frequency-locked manner. Application of bicuculline (200 muM) abolished pulse tracking in both LFP and unitary responses suggesting that GABA(A) receptor activation is necessary for pulse tracking within the AL. Finally, psychophysical measures of odor detection establish that detection thresholds are lowered when odor is pulsed at 20 Hz. These results suggest that AL networks can respond to the oscillatory dynamics of stimuli such as those imposed by the wing beat in a manner analogous to mammalian sniffing.
Keywords: GABA; antennal lobe; olfaction; olfactory bulb; oscillations; sensory sampling; sniffing; synchrony.