Orthonasal versus retronasal glomerular activity in rat olfactory bulb by fMRI

Neuroimage. 2020 May 15;212:116664. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116664. Epub 2020 Feb 20.


Odorants can reach olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) by two routes: orthonasally, when volatiles enter the nasal cavity during inhalation/sniffing, and retronasally, when food volatiles released in the mouth pass into the nasal cavity during exhalation/eating. Previous work in humans has shown that both delivery routes of the same odorant can evoke distinct perceptions and patterns of neural responses in the brain. Each delivery route is known to influence specific responses across the dorsal region of the glomerular sheet in the olfactory bulb (OB), but spatial distributions across the entire glomerular sheet throughout the whole OB remain largely unexplored. We used functional MRI (fMRI) to measure and compare activations across the entire glomerular sheet in rat OB resulting from both orthonasal and retronasal stimulations of the same odors. We observed reproducible fMRI activation maps of the whole OB during both orthonasal and retronasal stimuli. However, retronasal stimuli required double the orthonasal odor concentration for similar response amplitudes. Regardless, both the magnitude and spatial extent of activity were larger during orthonasal versus retronasal stimuli for the same odor. Orthonasal and retronasal response patterns show overlap as well as some route-specific dominance. Orthonasal maps were dominant in dorsal-medial regions, whereas retronasal maps were dominant in caudal and lateral regions. These different whole OB encodings likely underlie differences in odor perception between these biologically important routes for odorants among mammals. These results establish the relationships between orthonasal and retronasal odor representations in the rat OB.

Keywords: Glomeruli; Olfactory bulb; Orthonasal; Retronasal; fMRI.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal / methods
  • Animals
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nasal Cavity / physiology
  • Nasopharynx / physiology
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley