A major step in our understanding of brain function is to determine how neural circuits are altered in their function by signaling molecules or neuromodulators. Neuromodulation is the neurochemical process that modifies the computations performed by a neuron or network based on changing the functional needs or behavioral state of the subject. These modulations have the effect of altering the responsivity to synaptic inputs. Early sensory processing areas, such as the main olfactory bulb, provide an accessible window for investigating how neuromodulation regulates the functional states of neural networks and influences how we process sensory information. Olfaction is an attractive model system in this regard because of its relative simplicity and because it links primary olfactory sensory neurons to higher olfactory and associational networks. Likewise, centrifugal fibers from higher order brain centers target neurons in the main olfactory bulb to regulate synaptic processing. The neuromodulatory systems that provide regulatory inputs and play important roles in olfactory sensory processing and behaviors include the endocannabinoid system, the dopaminergic system, the cholinergic system, the noradrenergic system and the serotonergic system. Here, we present a brief survey of neuromodulation of olfactory signals in the main olfactory bulb with an emphasis on the endocannabinoid system.
Keywords: acetylcholine; brain; cannabinoid; central nervous system; dopamine; electrophysiology; neuroscience; noradrenaline; sensory biology; serotonin.