Olfaction in mammals is a dynamic process driven by the inhalation of air through the nasal cavity. Inhalation determines the temporal structure of sensory neuron responses and shapes the neural dynamics underlying central olfactory processing. Inhalation-linked bursts of activity among olfactory bulb (OB) output neurons [mitral/tufted cells (MCs)] are temporally transformed relative to those of sensory neurons. We investigated how OB circuits shape inhalation-driven dynamics in MCs using a modeling approach that was highly constrained by experimental results. First, we constructed models of canonical OB circuits that included mono- and disynaptic feedforward excitation, recurrent inhibition and feedforward inhibition of the MC. We then used experimental data to drive inputs to the models and to tune parameters; inputs were derived from sensory neuron responses during natural odorant sampling (sniffing) in awake rats, and model output was compared with recordings of MC responses to odorants sampled with the same sniff waveforms. This approach allowed us to identify OB circuit features underlying the temporal transformation of sensory inputs into inhalation-linked patterns of MC spike output. We found that realistic input-output transformations can be achieved independently by multiple circuits, including feedforward inhibition with slow onset and decay kinetics and parallel feedforward MC excitation mediated by external tufted cells. We also found that recurrent and feedforward inhibition had differential impacts on MC firing rates and on inhalation-linked response dynamics. These results highlight the importance of investigating neural circuits in a naturalistic context and provide a framework for further explorations of signal processing by OB networks.
Keywords: glomerulus; inhibition; neural modeling; sniffing; temporal structure.
Copyright © 2015 the American Physiological Society.