How the olfactory bulb organizes and processes odor inputs through fundamental operations of its microcircuits is largely unknown. To gain new insight we focus on odor-activated synaptic clusters related to individual glomeruli, which we call glomerular units. Using a 3D model of mitral and granule cell interactions supported by experimental findings, combined with a matrix-based representation of glomerular operations, we identify the mechanisms for forming one or more glomerular units in response to a given odor, how and to what extent the glomerular units interfere or interact with each other during learning, their computational role within the olfactory bulb microcircuit, and how their actions can be formalized into a theoretical framework in which the olfactory bulb can be considered to contain "odor operators" unique to each individual. The results provide new and specific theoretical and experimentally testable predictions.
Keywords: granule cells; mitral cells; network self-organization; odor coding; olfactory bulb system.