Distributed organization of a brain microcircuit analyzed by three-dimensional modeling: the olfactory bulb

Front Comput Neurosci. 2014 Apr 29:8:50. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2014.00050. eCollection 2014.


The functional consequences of the laminar organization observed in cortical systems cannot be easily studied using standard experimental techniques, abstract theoretical representations, or dimensionally reduced models built from scratch. To solve this problem we have developed a full implementation of an olfactory bulb microcircuit using realistic three-dimensional (3D) inputs, cell morphologies, and network connectivity. The results provide new insights into the relations between the functional properties of individual cells and the networks in which they are embedded. To our knowledge, this is the first model of the mitral-granule cell network to include a realistic representation of the experimentally-recorded complex spatial patterns elicited in the glomerular layer (GL) by natural odor stimulation. Although the olfactory bulb, due to its organization, has unique advantages with respect to other brain systems, the method is completely general, and can be integrated with more general approaches to other systems. The model makes experimentally testable predictions on distributed processing and on the differential backpropagation of somatic action potentials in each lateral dendrite following odor learning, providing a powerful 3D framework for investigating the functions of brain microcircuits.

Keywords: computational modeling; granule cells; lateral inhibition; mitral cells; olfactory glomeruli.