Population Coding in an Innately Relevant Olfactory Area

Neuron. 2017 Mar 8;93(5):1180-1197.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.02.010. Epub 2017 Feb 28.


Different olfactory cortical regions are thought to harbor distinct sensory representations, enabling each area to play a unique role in odor perception and behavior. In the piriform cortex (PCx), spatially dispersed sensory inputs evoke activity in distributed ensembles of neurons that act as substrates for odor learning. In contrast, the posterolateral cortical amygdala (plCoA) receives hardwired inputs that may link specific odor cues to innate olfactory behaviors. Here we show that despite stark differences in the patterning of plCoA and PCx inputs, odor-evoked neural ensembles in both areas are equally capable of discriminating odors, and exhibit similar odor tuning, reliability, and correlation structure. These results demonstrate that brain regions mediating odor-driven innate behaviors can, like brain areas involved in odor learning, represent odor objects using distributive population codes; these findings suggest both alternative mechanisms for the generation of innate odor-driven behaviors and additional roles for the plCoA in odor perception.

Keywords: cortical amygdala; innate; innate behavior; olfaction; piriform cortex; population coding; sensory tuning.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cues
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Olfactory Cortex / physiology*
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology
  • Piriform Cortex / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*