Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center have found that taking as little as a hundred milliseconds longer to smell an odor results in more accurate identification of that odor. This seemingly simple observation has important implications regarding how olfactory information is processed by the brain. The findings appear in the August issue of Neuron.
By demonstrating a clear relationship between odor sampling time and accurate odor identification, the Monell researchers solved a controversy centering on whether the brain processes olfactory information in a similar manner to how it processes visual and auditory stimuli.
"Previous published work suggested that olfaction was different from vision and audition in lacking this fundamental property," notes senior author Alan Gelperin, PhD, a computational neuroscientist. "We now can use accumulated information about these other sensory systems to help us understand olfaction."
Exactly how the many thousands of different odorants are detected and identified remains a mystery. The human nose probably contains several hundred different types of olfactory receptors, while animals with a highly developed sense of smell - such as dog, rat, or cat - may have over a thousand different receptor types. It is thought that perception of any one odorant probably involves simultaneous stimulation of several different receptors and that an olfactory code enables identification of specific odorants by the brain. Previous experience and motivational state also interact with odorant information to influence processing and identification. It still is not known how the brain deals with all this information to let us perceive odors.
Using an approach that has provided insight into information processing by the visual and auditory systems, the Monell researchers developed a new behavioral paradigm using trained mice to ask whether longer exposure to an odor would result in more accurate identification of that odor. The results indicated that the mice needed extra time to accurately identify more complex odors.
"The well-trained mouse needs almost half a second to solve a difficult olfactory discrimination task," says lead author Dmitry Rinberg, PhD. "This time window is very important as we seek to design experiments and develop models that explain what the brain is doing in the extra time it takes to identify complex odors."
Rinberg, a physicist and computational neuroscientist, comments, "The development of color television was based on extensive studies of visual sensory processing. Modern MP3 players are built based on a deep knowledge about properties of our hearing capabilities. Similarly, increased knowledge of olfactory processing has the obvious potential to open many doors, perhaps including development of electronic olfactory systems that would have capabilities such as identification of odors for medical diagnosis or detection of land mines."
Leslie Stein | EurekAlert!
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy