The distributed circuit within the piriform cortex makes odor discrimination robust

J Comp Neurol. 2018 Dec 1;526(17):2725-2743. doi: 10.1002/cne.24492. Epub 2018 Nov 4.


Distributed circuits wherein connections between subcircuit components seem randomly distributed are common to the olfactory circuit, hippocampus, and cerebellum. In such circuits, activation patterns seem random too, showing no detectable spatial preference, and contrast with regions that have topographic connections between subcircuits and topographic activation patterns. Quantitative studies of topographic circuits in the neocortex have yielded common principles of organization. Whether distributed circuits share similar principles of organization is unknown because similar quantitative information is missing and understanding the way they encode information remains a challenge. We addressed these needs by providing a quantitative description of the mouse piriform cortex, a paleocortical distributed circuit that subserves olfaction. The quantitative information provided two insights. First, with a nearly parameter-free model of the olfactory circuit, we show that the piriform cortex robustly maintains odor information and discrimination ability present in the olfactory bulb. Second, the paleocortex is quantitatively different from the neocortex: it has a lower surface area density, which decreases from the anterior to posterior paleocortex contrasting with the uniform neuronal density of the neocortex. These insights might also apply to other distributed circuits.

Keywords: RRID: AB_11006358; RRID: AB_2298772; RRID: AB_2307443; RRID: AB_2336933; RRID: AB_2340863; RRID: AB_90764; comparative neuroanatomy; distributed circuit; neocortex; olfactory coding; paleocortex; piriform cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neocortex / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / cytology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Piriform Cortex / cytology
  • Piriform Cortex / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology