Sniffing behaviour-related changes in cardiac and cortical activity in rats

J Physiol. 2019 Nov;597(21):5295-5306. doi: 10.1113/JP278500. Epub 2019 Oct 9.


Key points: High-frequency (HF) sniffing represents active odour sampling and an increase in the animal's motivation. We examined how HF sniffing affects the physiological activity of the brain-body system. During HF sniffing, heart rates and the ratio of theta to delta critical local field potential power were comparable to those observed during motion periods. Vagus nerve spike rates did not vary depending on HF sniffing. Our results suggest that physiological factors in the central nervous system and the periphery are not simply determined by locomotion but are crucially associated with HF sniffing.

Abstract: Sniffing is a fundamental behaviour for odour sampling, and high-frequency (HF) sniffing, generally at a sniff frequency of more than 6 Hz, is considered to represent an animal's increased motivation to explore external environments. Here, we examined how HF sniffing is associated with changes in physiological signals from the central and peripheral organs in rats. During HF sniffing while the rats were stationary, heart rates, the magnitude of dorsal neck muscle contraction, and the ratio of theta to delta local field potential power in the motor cortex were comparable to those observed during motion periods and were significantly higher than those observed during resting respiration periods. No pronounced changes in vagus nerve spike rates were detected in relation to HF sniffing. These results demonstrate that central and peripheral physiological factors are crucially associated with the emergence of HF sniffing, especially during quiescent periods. Behavioural data might be improved to more accurately evaluate an animal's internal psychological state if they are combined with a sniffing pattern as a physiological marker.

Keywords: heart rate; local field potential; neocortex; respiration; sniffing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Respiration
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology