Mitral/tufted (M/T) cells of the main olfactory bulb transmit odorant information to higher brain structures. The relative timing of action potentials across M/T cells has been proposed to encode this information and to be critical for the activation of downstream neurons. Using ensemble recordings from the mouse olfactory bulb in vivo, we measured how correlations between cells are shaped by stimulus (odor) identity, common respiratory drive, and other cells' activity. The shared respiration cycle is the largest source of correlated firing, but even after accounting for all observable factors a residual positive noise correlation was observed. Noise correlation was maximal on a ∼100-ms timescale and was seen only in cells separated by <200 µm. This correlation is explained primarily by common activity in groups of nearby cells. Thus, M/T-cell correlation principally reflects respiratory modulation and sparse, local network connectivity, with odor identity accounting for a minor component.
Keywords: olfaction; sensory; statistics; synchrony.