Odor Experience Facilitates Sparse Representations of New Odors in a Large-Scale Olfactory Bulb Model

Front Neuroanat. 2016 Feb 11:10:10. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2016.00010. eCollection 2016.


Prior odor experience has a profound effect on the coding of new odor inputs by animals. The olfactory bulb, the first relay of the olfactory pathway, can substantially shape the representations of odor inputs. How prior odor experience affects the representation of new odor inputs in olfactory bulb and its underlying network mechanism are still unclear. Here we carried out a series of simulations based on a large-scale realistic mitral-granule network model and found that prior odor experience not only accelerated formation of the network, but it also significantly strengthened sparse responses in the mitral cell network while decreasing sparse responses in the granule cell network. This modulation of sparse representations may be due to the increase of inhibitory synaptic weights. Correlations among mitral cells within the network and correlations between mitral network responses to different odors decreased gradually when the number of prior training odors was increased, resulting in a greater decorrelation of the bulb representations of input odors. Based on these findings, we conclude that the degree of prior odor experience facilitates degrees of sparse representations of new odors by the mitral cell network through experience-enhanced inhibition mechanism.

Keywords: large scale network; odor representation; olfactory bulb; prior experience; sparse representation.