Odour concentration affects odour identity in honeybees.
ABSTRACT: The fact that most types of sensory stimuli occur naturally over a large range of intensities is a challenge to early sensory processing. Sensory mechanisms appear to be optimized to extract perceptually significant stimulus fluctuations that can be analysed in a manner largely independent of the absolute stimulus intensity. This general principle may not, however, extend to olfaction; many studies have suggested that olfactory stimuli are not perceptually invariant with respect to odour intensity. For many animals, absolute odour intensity may be a feature in itself, such that it forms a part of odour identity and thus plays an important role in discrimination alongside other odour properties such as the molecular identity of the odorant. The experiments with honeybees reported here show a departure from odour-concentration invariance and are consistent with a lower-concentration regime in which odour concentration contributes to overall odour identity and a higher-concentration regime in which it may not. We argue that this could be a natural consequence of odour coding and suggest how an 'intensity feature' might be useful to the honeybee in natural odour detection and discrimination.
Project description:Lesion experiments suggest that odour input to the olfactory bulb contains significant redundant signal such that rodents can discern odours using minimal stimulus-related information. Here we investigate the dependence of odour-quality perception on the integrity of glomerular activity by comparing odour-evoked activity maps before and after epithelial lesions. Lesions prevent mice from recognizing previously experienced odours and differentially delay discrimination learning of unrecognized and novel odour pairs. Poor recognition results not from mice experiencing an altered concentration of an odour but from perception of apparent novel qualities. Consistent with this, relative intensity of glomerular activity following lesions is altered compared with maps recorded in shams and by varying odour concentration. Together, these data show that odour recognition relies on comprehensively matching input patterns to a previously generated stimulus template. When encountering novel odours, access to all glomerular activity ensures rapid generation of new templates to perform accurate perceptual judgements.
Project description:Perceptually similar stimuli often predict vastly different outcomes, requiring the brain to maintain specific associations in the face of potential ambiguity. This could be achieved either through local changes in stimulus representations, or through modulation of functional connections between stimulus-coding and outcome-coding regions. Here we test these competing hypotheses using classical conditioning of perceptually similar odours in the context of human fMRI. Pattern-based analyses of odour-evoked fMRI activity reveal that odour category, identity and value are coded in piriform (PC), orbitofrontal (OFC) and ventromedial prefrontal (vmPFC) cortices, respectively. However, we observe no learning-related reorganization of category or identity representations. Instead, changes in connectivity between vmPFC and OFC are correlated with learning-related changes in value, whereas connectivity changes between vmPFC and PC predict changes in perceived odour similarity. These results demonstrate that dissociable neural pathways support associative and perceptual representations of sensory stimuli.
Project description:The stimulus complexity of naturally occurring odours presents unique challenges for central nervous systems that are aiming to internalize the external olfactory landscape. One mechanism by which the brain encodes perceptual representations of behaviourally relevant smells is through the synthesis of different olfactory inputs into a unified perceptual experience--an odour object. Recent evidence indicates that the identification, categorization and discrimination of olfactory stimuli rely on the formation and modulation of odour objects in the piriform cortex. Convergent findings from human and rodent models suggest that distributed piriform ensemble patterns of olfactory qualities and categories are crucial for maintaining the perceptual constancy of ecologically inconstant stimuli.
Project description:How do physico-chemical stimulus features, perception, and physiology relate? Given the multi-layered and parallel architecture of brains, the question specifically is where physiological activity patterns correspond to stimulus features and/or perception. Perceived distances between six odour pairs are defined behaviourally from four independent odour recognition tasks. We find that, in register with the physico-chemical distances of these odours, perceived distances for 3-octanol and n-amylacetate are consistently smallest in all four tasks, while the other five odour pairs are about equally distinct. Optical imaging in the antennal lobe, using a calcium sensor transgenically expressed in only first-order sensory or only second-order olfactory projection neurons, reveals that 3-octanol and n-amylacetate are distinctly represented in sensory neurons, but appear merged in projection neurons. These results may suggest that within-antennal lobe processing funnels sensory signals into behaviourally meaningful categories, in register with the physico-chemical relatedness of the odours.
Project description:Intensity variation poses a fundamental problem for sensory discrimination because changes in the response of sensory neurons as a result of stimulus identity, e.g., a change in the identity of the speaker uttering a word, can potentially be confused with changes resulting from stimulus intensity, for example, the loudness of the utterance. Here we report on the responses of neurons in field L, the primary auditory cortex homolog in songbirds, which allow for accurate discrimination of birdsongs that is invariant to intensity changes over a large range. Such neurons comprise a subset of a population that is highly diverse, in terms of both discrimination accuracy and intensity sensitivity. We find that the neurons with a high degree of invariance also display a high discrimination performance, and that the degree of invariance is significantly correlated with the reproducibility of spike timing on a short time scale and the temporal sparseness of spiking activity. Our results indicate that a temporally sparse spike timing-based code at a primary cortical stage can provide a substrate for intensity-invariant discrimination of natural sounds.
Project description:The ability of humans to discriminate enantiomeric odour pairs is substance -specific. Current literature suggests that psychophysical discrimination of odour enantiomers mainly depends on the peripheral processing at the level of the olfactory sensory neurons (OSN). To study the influence of central processing in discrimination, we investigated differences in the electrophysiological responses to psychophysically indistinguishable (+)- and (-)- rose oxide enantiomers at peripheral and central-nervous levels in humans. We recorded the electro-olfactogram (EOG) from the olfactory epithelium and the EEG-derived olfactory event-related potentials (OERP). Results from a psychophysical three alternative forced choice test indicated indistinguishability of the two odour enantiomers. In a total of 19 young participants EOG could be recorded in 74 and OERP in 95% of subjects. Significantly different EOG amplitudes and latencies were recorded in response to the 2 stimuli. However, no such differences in amplitude or latency emerged for the OERP. In conclusion, although the pair of enantiomer could be discriminated at a peripheral level this did not lead to a central-nervous/cognitive differentiation of the two stimuli.
Project description:Field olfactometry is one of the sensory techniques used to determine odour concentration, in atmospheric air, directly in emission sources. A two-dimensional gas chromatography with time of flight mass spectrometer (GC×GC-TOF-MS) allows performing the chemical characterization of various groups of chemical compounds, even in complex mixtures. Application of these techniques enabled determination of odour concentration level in atmospheric air in a vicinity of the oil refinery and the neighbouring wastewater treatment plant. The atmospheric air samples were analysed during a time period extending from February to June 2016. Based on the GC×GC-TOF-MS analysis and odour threshold values, the theoretical odour concentrations were calculated and compared with the odour concentrations determined by field olfactometry technique. The investigations revealed that higher values of odour concentration were obtained with the field olfactometry technique where odour analysis was based on holistic measurement. It was observed that the measurement site or meteorological conditions had significant influence on odour concentration level. The paper also discusses the fundamental analytical instruments utilized in the analysis of odorous compounds and their mixtures.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The visual ecology of pest insects is poorly studied compared to the role of odour cues in determining their behaviour. Furthermore, the combined effects of both odour and vision on insect orientation are frequently ignored, but could impact behavioural responses. METHODS:A locomotion compensator was used to evaluate use of different visual stimuli by a major coleopteran pest of stored grains (Sitophilus zeamais), with and without the presence of host odours (known to be attractive to this species), in an open-loop setup. RESULTS:Some visual stimuli-in particular, one shade of yellow, solid black and high-contrast black-against-white stimuli-elicited positive orientation behaviour from the beetles in the absence of odour stimuli. When host odours were also present, at 90° to the source of the visual stimulus, the beetles presented with yellow and vertical black-on-white grating patterns changed their walking course and typically adopted a path intermediate between the two stimuli. The beetles presented with a solid black-on-white target continued to orient more strongly towards the visual than the odour stimulus. DISCUSSION:Visual stimuli can strongly influence orientation behaviour, even in species where use of visual cues is sometimes assumed to be unimportant, while the outcomes from exposure to multimodal stimuli are unpredictable and need to be determined under differing conditions. The importance of the two modalities of stimulus (visual and olfactory) in food location is likely to depend upon relative stimulus intensity and motivational state of the insect.
Project description:Peripheral neurons of most sensory systems increase their response with increasing stimulus intensity. Behavioural responses, however, can be specific to some intermediate intensity level whose particular value might be innate or associatively learned. Learning such a preference requires an adjustable trans- formation from a monotonic stimulus representation at the sensory periphery to a non-monotonic representation for the motor command. How do neural systems accomplish this task? We tackle this general question focusing on odour-intensity learning in the fruit fly, whose first- and second-order olfactory neurons show monotonic stimulus-response curves. Nevertheless, flies form associative memories specific to particular trained odour intensities. Thus, downstream of the first two olfactory processing layers, odour intensity must be re-coded to enable intensity-specific associative learning. We present a minimal, feed-forward, three-layer circuit, which implements the required transformation by combining excitation, inhibition, and, as a decisive third element, homeostatic plasticity. Key features of this circuit motif are consistent with the known architecture and physiology of the fly olfactory system, whereas alternative mechanisms are either not composed of simple, scalable building blocks or not compatible with physiological observations. The simplicity of the circuit and the robustness of its function under parameter changes make this computational motif an attractive candidate for tuneable non-monotonic intensity coding.
Project description:Perceptual similarity between stimuli is often assessed via generalization, the response to stimuli that are similar to the one which was previously conditioned. Although conditioning procedures are variable, studies on how this variation may affect perceptual similarity remain scarce. Here, we use a combination of behavioural and computational analyses to investigate the influence of olfactory conditioning procedures on odour generalization in ants. Insects were trained following either absolute conditioning, in which a single odour (an aldehyde) was rewarded with sucrose, or differential conditioning, in which one odour (the same aldehyde) was similarly rewarded and another odour (an aldehyde differing in carbon-chain length) was punished with quinine. The response to the trained odours and generalization to other aldehydes were assessed. We show that olfactory similarity, rather than being immutable, varies with the conditioning procedure. Compared with absolute conditioning, differential conditioning enhances olfactory discrimination. This improvement is best described by a multiplicative interaction between two independent processes, the excitatory and inhibitory generalization gradients induced by the rewarded and the punished odour, respectively. We show that olfactory similarity is dramatically shaped by an individual's perceptual experience and suggest a new hypothesis for the nature of stimulus interactions underlying experience-dependent changes in perceptual similarity.