Olfactory neuronal responses in the primate orbitofrontal cortex: analysis in an olfactory discrimination task

J Neurophysiol. 1996 Apr;75(4):1659-72. doi: 10.1152/jn.1996.75.4.1659.


1. The primate orbitofrontal cortex receives inputs from the primary olfactory (pyriform) cortex and also from the primary taste cortex. To investigate how olfactory information is encoded in the orbitofrontal cortex, the responses of single neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex and surrounding areas were recorded during the performance of an olfactory discrimination task. In the task, the delivery of one of eight different odors indicated that the monkey could lick to obtain a taste of sucrose. If one of two other odors was delivered from the olfactometer, the monkey had to refrain from licking, otherwise he received a taste of saline. 2. Of the 1,580 neurons recorded in the orbitofrontal cortex, 3.1% (48) had olfactory responses and 34 (2.2%) responded differently to the different odors in the task. The neurons responded with a typical latency of 180 ms from the onset of odorant delivery. 3. Of the olfactory neurons with differential responses in the task, 35% responded solely on the basis of the taste reward association of the odorants. Such neurons responded either to all the rewarded stimuli, and none of the saline-associated stimuli, or vice versa. 4. The remaining 65% of these neurons showed differential selectivity for the stimuli based on the odor quality and not on the taste reward association of the odor. 5. The findings show that the olfactory representation within the orbitofrontal cortex reflects for some neurons (65%) which odor is present independently of its association with taste reward, and that for other neurons (35%), the olfactory response reflects (and encodes) the taste association of the odor. The additional finding that some of the odor-responsive neurons were also responsive to taste stimuli supports the hypothesis that odor-taste association learning at the level of single neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex enables such cells to show olfactory responses that reflect the taste association of the odor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / cytology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reward
  • Taste / physiology*