Olfaction as an Active Sense: Sniffing and Odor Coding


Animals actively acquire odor information by sniffing - a complex behavior that changes rapidly depending on the task at hand, the behavioral context and an animal's internal state. We are interested in how the act of sniffing shapes the initial representation of odors as well as how odor information is processed by the brain. We approach this question using novel methods for imaging activity in the awake animal as it performs odor-guided tasks. We have found that sniffing shapes the temporal dynamics, the intensity, and even the identity of receptor neuron inputs to the olfactory bulb, and so plays a key role in shaping odor coding and - perhaps - odor perception. This raises many new questions, for example: how is odor information processed differently during different sniffing behaviors? what are the mechanisms by which the parameters of a sniff alter odor representations? how and when are different sniffing behaviors expressed by the animal, and how do these behaviors adaptively shape odor representations? We are addressing these questions using imaging in the awake and anesthetized animal, electrophysiological methods, behavioral assays and computational studies. 


Relevant Publications


Carey RM, Sherwood WE, Shipley MT, Borisyuk A, Wachowiak M (2015) Role of intraglomerular circuits in shaping temporally structured responses to naturalistic inhalation-driven sensory input to the olfactory bulb. J Neurophysiol:jn 00394 02014.


Cenier T, McGann JP, Tsuno Y, Verhagen JV, Wachowiak M (2013) Testing the sorption hypothesis in olfaction: a limited role for sniff strength in shaping primary odor representations during behavior. J Neurosci 33:79-92.


Wachowiak M (2011) All in a sniff: olfaction as a model for active sensing. Neuron 71:962-973.


Carey RM, Wachowiak M (2011) Effect of sniffing on the temporal structure of mitral/tufted cell output from the olfactory bulb. J Neurosci 31:10615-10626.


Carey RM, Verhagen JV, Wesson DW, Pirez N, Wachowiak M (2009) Temporal Structure of Receptor Neuron Input to the Olfactory Bulb Imaged in Behaving Rats. J Neurophysiol 101:1073-1088.


Wesson DW, Carey RM, Verhagen JV, Wachowiak M (2008) Rapid Encoding and Perception of Novel Odors in the Rat. PLoS Biology 6:e82.


Verhagen JV, Wesson DW, Netoff TI, White JA, Wachowiak M (2007) Sniffing controls an adaptive filter of sensory input to the olfactory bulb. Nat Neurosci 10:631-639.


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