Functional roles of distributed synaptic clusters in the mitral-granule cell network of the olfactory bulb

Front Integr Neurosci. 2010 Sep 20;4:122. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2010.00122. eCollection 2010.


Odors are encoded in spatio-temporal patterns within the olfactory bulb, but the mechanisms of odor recognition and discrimination are poorly understood. It is reasonable to postulate that the olfactory code is sculpted by lateral and feedforward inhibition mediated by granule cells onto the mitral cells. Recent viral tracing and physiological studies revealed patterns of distributed granule cell synaptic clusters that provided additional clues to the possible mechanisms at the network level. The emerging properties and functional roles of these patterns, however, are unknown. Here, using a realistic model of 5 mitral and 100 granule cells we show how their synaptic network can dynamically self-organize and interact through an activity-dependent dendrodendritic mechanism. The results suggest that the patterns of distributed mitral-granule cell connectivity may represent the most recent history of odor inputs, and may contribute to the basic processes underlying mixture perception and odor qualities. The model predicts how and why the dynamical interactions between the active mitral cells through the granule cell synaptic clusters can account for a variety of puzzling behavioral results on odor mixtures and on the emergence of synthetic or analytic perception.

Keywords: granule cell; mitral cell; network; odor perception; olfactory bulb; realistic model.