In chemical sensation, multiple models have been proposed to explain how odors are represented in the olfactory cortex. One hypothesis is that the combinatorial identity of active neurons within sniff-related time windows is critical, whereas another model proposes that it is the temporal structure of neural activity that is essential for encoding odor information. We find that top-down feedback to the main olfactory bulb dictates the information transmitted to the piriform cortex and switches between these coding strategies. Using a detailed network model, we demonstrate that feedback control of inhibition influences the excitation-inhibition balance in mitral cells, restructuring the dynamics of piriform cortical cells. This results in performance improvement in odor discrimination tasks. These findings present a framework for early olfactory computation, where top-down feedback to the bulb flexibly shapes the temporal structure of neural activity in the piriform cortex, allowing the early olfactory system to dynamically switch between two distinct coding models.
Keywords: Neuroscience; centrifugal feedback; combinatorial code; olfaction; olfactory bulb; piriform cortex; temporal code; top-down.
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