Odor perception is hypothesized to be an experience-dependent process involving the encoding of odor objects by distributed olfactory cortical ensembles. Olfactory cortical neurons coactivated by a specific pattern of odorant evoked input become linked through association fiber synaptic plasticity, creating a template of the familiar odor. In this way, experience and memory play an important role in odor perception and discrimination. In other systems, memory consolidation occurs partially via slow-wave sleep (SWS)-dependent replay of activity patterns originally evoked during waking. SWS is ideal for replay given hyporesponsive sensory systems, and thus reduced interference. Here, using artificial patterns of olfactory bulb stimulation in a fear conditioning procedure in the rat, we tested the effects of imposed post-training replay during SWS and waking on strength and precision of pattern memory. The results show that imposed replay during post-training SWS enhanced the subsequent strength of memory, whereas the identical replay during waking induced extinction. The magnitude of this enhancement was dependent on the timing of imposed replay relative to cortical sharp-waves. Imposed SWS replay of stimuli, which differed from the conditioned stimulus, did not affect conditioned stimulus memory strength but induced generalization of the fear memory to novel artificial patterns. Finally, post-training disruption of piriform cortex intracortical association fiber synapses, hypothesized to be critical for experience-dependent odor coding, also impaired subsequent memory precision but not strength. These results suggest that SWS replay in the olfactory cortex enhances memory consolidation, and that memory precision is dependent on the fidelity of that replay.
Keywords: memory; odor memory; odor object; olfaction; piriform cortex; sleep.