Projection neurons in Drosophila antennal lobes signal the acceleration of odor concentrations

Elife. 2015 May 14;4:e06651. doi: 10.7554/eLife.06651.


Temporal experience of odor gradients is important in spatial orientation of animals. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster exhibits robust odor-guided behaviors in an odor gradient field. In order to investigate how early olfactory circuits process temporal variation of olfactory stimuli, we subjected flies to precisely defined odor concentration waveforms and examined spike patterns of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) and projection neurons (PNs). We found a significant temporal transformation between OSN and PN spike patterns, manifested by the PN output strongly signaling the OSN spike rate and its rate of change. A simple two-dimensional model admitting the OSN spike rate and its rate of change as inputs closely predicted the PN output. When cascaded with the rate-of-change encoding by OSNs, PNs primarily signal the acceleration and the rate of change of dynamic odor stimuli to higher brain centers, thereby enabling animals to reliably respond to the onsets of odor concentrations.

Keywords: D. melanogaster; acceleration encoding; antennal lobes; neuroscience; olfactory sensory neurons; projection neurons; temporal processing; two-dimensional linear-nonlinear model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Odorants / analysis*
  • Olfactory Pathways / cytology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Stimulation, Chemical