Lab Animals Are Able to Discriminate Smells


Mice are able to detect small differences in smells.

According to research completed at teh John B. Pierce Laboratory and Yale School of Medicine, mice are able to find small diffrences in the temporal dynamics of the olfactory system. The research will be published in the open access journal PLOS Biology.

In this study, genetically engineered mice were used to control the activity of neurons in the olfactory bulbs in mice that did discriminatory tasks. Optogenetics, or controlling neural activity, allows much more precise control over the activity of neurons in the olfactory system than chemical odors can roduce. The mice were "light-smelling" and were able to find the difference in smells in as short of a time as 13 milliseconds between the dynamics of these "virtual odors."

Scientists then put the "movies" of the activity of the controlled mice back into the brains of naive mice.

When scientists replanted the memory into the brains of mice who had never before smelled certain scents, these naive mice were able to discriminate between the movies. This was proof that the neural dynamics of the bulb contains basic information about odors.

According to Associate Professor Justus Verhagen, the lead author on the paper, "This data is very exciting as it shows for the first time that the temporal dynamics of bulbar neural activity are meaningful to the animal." He added that the new tool of optogenetics now allows scientists to test to see if this was true. Scientists coule "read out the dynamic activity but could not impose it back on the brain and ask quesitons about its role in odor discrimination."

Verhagen's lab and others at Yale plus the John B. Pierce Laboratory are studying the neurobiology of food and flavor perception. Verhagen's lab is unique because it applies the power of optogenetics in mice to study the spatio-temporal capabilities of the olfactory neural circuitry that is part of these functions.

Source: Medical News Today,


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