Olfactory perception and behaviors critically depend on the ability to identify an odor across a wide range of concentrations. Here, we use calcium imaging to determine how odor identity is encoded in olfactory cortex. We find that, despite considerable trial-to-trial variability, odor identity can accurately be decoded from ensembles of co-active neurons that are distributed across piriform cortex without any apparent spatial organization. However, piriform response patterns change substantially over a 100-fold change in odor concentration, apparently degrading the population representation of odor identity. We show that this problem can be resolved by decoding odor identity from a subpopulation of concentration-invariant piriform neurons. These concentration-invariant neurons are overrepresented in piriform cortex but not in olfactory bulb mitral and tufted cells. We therefore propose that distinct perceptual features of odors are encoded in independent subnetworks of neurons in the olfactory cortex.
Keywords: cortex; mouse; neuroscience; odor coding; olfaction.