Anatomic and physiologic studies have suggested a model in which neurons of the piriform cortex receive convergent input from random collections of glomeruli. In this model, odor representations can only be afforded behavioral significance upon experience. We have devised an experimental strategy that permits us to ask whether the activation of an arbitrarily chosen subpopulation of neurons in piriform cortex can elicit different behavioral responses dependent upon learning. Activation of a small subpopulation of piriform neurons expressing channelrhodopsin at multiple loci in the piriform cortex, when paired with reward or shock, elicits either appetitive or aversive behavior. Moreover, we demonstrate that different subpopulations of piriform neurons expressing ChR2 can be discriminated and independently entrained to elicit distinct behaviors. These observations demonstrate that the piriform cortex is sufficient to elicit learned behavioral outputs in the absence of sensory input. These data imply that the piriform does not use spatial order to map odorant identity or behavioral output.
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