How is the olfactory map formed and interpreted in the mammalian brain?

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2011:34:467-99. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-112210-112917.


Odor signals received by odorant receptors (ORs) expressed by olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) in the olfactory epithelium (OE) are represented as an odor map in the olfactory bulb (OB). In the mouse, there are ~1,000 different OR species, and each OSN expresses only one functional OR gene in a monoallelic manner. Furthermore, OSN axons expressing the same type of OR converge on a specific target site in the OB, forming a glomerular structure. Because each glomerulus represents a single OR species, and a single odorant can interact with multiple OR species, odor signals received in the OE are converted into a topographic map of multiple glomeruli activated with varying magnitudes. Here we review recent progress in the study of the mammalian olfactory system, focusing on the formation of the olfactory map and the transmission of topographical information in the OB to the olfactory cortex to elicit various behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Feedback, Physiological / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Pathways / cytology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Receptors, Odorant / genetics
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*


  • Receptors, Odorant