Faster, deeper, better: the impact of sniffing modulation on bulbar olfactory processing

PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40927. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040927. Epub 2012 Jul 17.


A key feature of mammalian olfactory perception is that sensory input is intimately related to respiration. Different authors have considered respiratory dynamics not only as a simple vector for odor molecules but also as an integral part of olfactory perception. Thus, rats adapt their sniffing strategy, both in frequency and flow rate, when performing odor-related tasks. The question of how frequency and flow rate jointly impact the spatio-temporal representation of odor in the olfactory bulb (OB) has not yet been answered. In the present paper, we addressed this question using a simulated nasal airflow protocol on anesthetized rats combined with voltage-sensitive dye imaging (VSDi) of odor-evoked OB glomerular maps. Glomerular responses displayed a tonic component during odor stimulation with a superimposed phasic component phase-locked to the sampling pattern. We showed that a high sniffing frequency (10 Hz) retained the ability to shape OB activity and that the tonic and phasic components of the VSDi responses were dependent on flow rate and inspiration volume, respectively. Both sniffing parameters jointly affected OB responses to odor such that the reduced activity level induced by a frequency increase was compensated by an increased flow rate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Male
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Rest
  • Rheology
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Voltage-Sensitive Dye Imaging