Whether different odors can be quickly distinguished depends on certain synapses in the brain that inhibit nerve stimulation. The researchers in Professor Dr. Thomas Kuner’s team at the Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Heidelberg University Medical School and Dr. Andreas Schäfer at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research have shown that mice in which a certain receptor in the olfactory center is missing can distinguish similar smells more quickly than mice without genetic manipulation. This behavior was directly attributed to inhibitor loops between adjacent nerve cells.
The discovery of the activation principle of “lateral inhibition” in the eye 43 years ago by Haldan K. Hartline, George Wald, and Ragnar Granit was honored with a Nobel Prize. The Heidelberg researchers have for the first time succeeded in confirming the same mechanism for the olfactory system, from the molecular level to behavior. The results of the studies were published in the prestigious journal “Neuron”.
Odors attach to receptors of olfactory cells in nasal mucosa, where they trigger nerve signals. These signals are processed in what is known as the olfactory bulb, a part of the brain. In the neuronal network, the incoming signal is converted to a specific electrical pattern that is transmitted to the cerebral cortex and other areas of the brain and is recognized there.
Local inhibitor loops make recognizing smells more precise
Professor Kuner and his team have now shown for the first time how neuronal processing of olfactory stimuli directly affects the behavior of test animals. “We manipulated information processing very specifically in the olfactory bulb and then measured the effect of this genetic manipulation based on reaction time. We were thus able to prove that the test animals, due to localized inhibitor loops, could distinguish very similar odor combinations much faster, yet very reliably,” explained Professor Kuner.
Inhibition via interneurons acts as a kind of filter by amplifying strong stimuli and further weakening weak stimuli. This makes the essential information easier to recognize. In the test animals, reaction time was reduced by about 50 ms. The time needed by test animals to learn various odors and their memory capability remained unaffected. Recognition of simple odors was also unchanged.
The researchers delivered a certain enzyme, cre recombinase, directly into the nerve cells of the olfactory bulb of young mice via a viral gene ferry. In the genome of these mice, a certain gene segment was removed using genetically introduced recognition sites of these enzymes. This led to the deletion of a receptor in the interneurons. This targeted manipulation made the inhibitor loops especially active. Using the usual “knock-out” models, in which the gene is deactivated in the entire body, the subsequent selective behavior could not have been observed. In a sophisticated experimental design, the mice then had to learn to recognize simple and complex odors composed of several aromatic substances. Using electrophysiological measurements, imaging processes, and anatomical techniques, a link was then created from the molecule to behavior.
NM Abraham, V Egger, DR Shimshek, R Renden, I Fukunaga, R Sprengel, PH Seeburg, M Klugmann, TW Margrie, AT Schaefer, T Kuner. Synaptic inhibition in the olfactory bulb accelerates odor discrimination in mice. Neuron, 2010, 65: 399–411
DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.01.009For more information in the Internet:
Contact person:Professor Dr. Thomas Kuner
Dr. Thomas Kuner | EurekAlert!
Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München
Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences