Biological constraints on configural odour mixture perception
Animals, including humans, detect odours and use this information to behave efficiently in the environment. Frequently, odours consist of complex mixtures of odorants rather than single odorants, and mixtures are often perceived as configural wholes, i.e. as odour objects (e.g. food, partners). The biological rules governing this 'configural perception' (as opposed to the elemental perception of mixtures through their components) remain weakly understood. Here, we first review examples of configural mixture processing in diverse species involving species-specific biological signals. Then, we present the original hypothesis that at least certain mixtures can be processed configurally across species. Indeed, experiments conducted in human adults, newborn rabbits and, more recently, in rodents and honeybees show that these species process some mixtures in a remarkably similar fashion. Strikingly, a mixture AB (A, ethyl isobutyrate; B, ethyl maltol) induces configural processing in humans, who perceive a mixture odour quality (pineapple) distinct from the component qualities (A, strawberry; B, caramel). The same mixture is weakly configurally processed in rabbit neonates, which perceive a particular odour for the mixture in addition to the component odours. Mice and honeybees also perceive the AB mixture configurally, as they respond differently to the mixture compared with its components. Based on these results and others, including neurophysiological approaches, we propose that certain mixtures are convergently perceived across various species of vertebrates/invertebrates, possibly as a result of a similar anatomical organization of their olfactory systems and the common necessity to simplify the environment's chemical complexity in order to display adaptive behaviours.
Bidirectional control of infant rat social behavior via dopaminergic innervation of the basolateral amygdala
Social interaction deficits seen in psychiatric disorders emerge in early-life and are most closely linked to aberrant neural circuit function. Due to technical limitations, we have limited understanding of how typical versus pathological social behavior circuits develop. Using a suite of invasive procedures in awake, behaving infant rats, including optogenetics, microdialysis, and microinfusions, we dissected the circuits controlling the gradual increase in social behavior deficits following two complementary procedures-naturalistic harsh maternal care and repeated shock alone or with an anesthetized mother. Whether the mother was the source of the adversity (naturalistic Scarcity-Adversity) or merely present during the adversity (repeated shock with mom), both conditions elevated basolateral amygdala (BLA) dopamine, which was necessary and sufficient in initiating social behavior pathology. This did not occur when pups experienced adversity alone. These data highlight the unique impact of social adversity as causal in producing mesolimbic dopamine circuit dysfunction and aberrant social behavior.
Basolateral amygdala to posterior piriform cortex connectivity ensures precision in learned odor threat
Odor perception can both evoke emotional states and be shaped by emotional or hedonic states. The amygdala complex plays an important role in recognition of, and response to, hedonically valenced stimuli, and has strong, reciprocal connectivity with the primary olfactory (piriform) cortex. Here, we used differential odor-threat conditioning in rats to test the role of basolateral amygdala (BLA) input to the piriform cortex in acquisition and expression of learned olfactory threat responses. Using local field potential recordings, we demonstrated that functional connectivity (high gamma band coherence) between the BLA and posterior piriform cortex (pPCX) is enhanced after differential threat conditioning. Optogenetic suppression of activity within the BLA prevents learned threat acquisition, as do lesions of the pPCX prior to threat conditioning (without inducing anosmia), suggesting that both regions are critical for acquisition of learned odor threat responses. However, optogenetic BLA suppression during testing did not impair threat response to the CS+â€‰, but did induce generalization to the CS-. A similar loss of stimulus control and threat generalization was induced by selective optogenetic suppression of BLA input to pPCX. These results suggest an important role for amygdala-sensory cortical connectivity in shaping responses to threatening stimuli.
The human olfactory bulb processes odor valence representation and cues motor avoidance behavior
Determining the valence of an odor to guide rapid approach-avoidance behavior is thought to be one of the core tasks of the olfactory system, and yet little is known of the initial neural mechanisms supporting this process or of its subsequent behavioral manifestation in humans. In two experiments, we measured the functional processing of odor valence perception in the human olfactory bulb (OB)-the first processing stage of the olfactory system-using a noninvasive method as well as assessed the subsequent motor avoidance response. We demonstrate that odor valence perception is associated with both gamma and beta activity in the human OB. Moreover, we show that negative, but not positive, odors initiate an early beta response in the OB, a response that is linked to a preparatory neural motor response in the motor cortex. Finally, in a separate experiment, we show that negative odors trigger a full-body motor avoidance response, manifested as a rapid leaning away from the odor, within the time period predicted by the OB results. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the human OB processes odor valence in a sequential manner in both the gamma and beta frequency bands and suggest that rapid processing of unpleasant odors in the OB might underlie rapid approach-avoidance decisions.
Neonatal ethanol causes profound reduction of cholinergic cell number in the basal forebrain of adult animals
In animal models that mimic human third-trimester fetal development, ethanol causes substantial cellular apoptosis in the brain, but for most brain structures the extent of permanent neuron loss that persists into adulthood is unknown. We injected ethanol into C57BL/6J mouse pups at postnatal day 7 (P7) to model human late-gestation ethanol toxicity, and then used stereological methods to investigate adult cell numbers in several subcortical neurotransmitter systems that project extensively in the forebrain to regulate arousal states. Ethanol treatment caused especially large reductions (34-42%) in the cholinergic cells of the basal forebrain, including cholinergic cells in the medial septal/vertical diagonal band (Ch1/Ch2) and in the horizontal diagonal band/substantia innominata/nucleus basalis (Ch3/Ch4) nuclei. Cell loss was also present in non-cholinergic basal forebrain cells, as demonstrated by 34% reduction of parvalbumin immunolabeled GABA cells and 25% reduction of total Nissl-stained neurons in the Ch1/Ch2 region. In contrast, cholinergic cells in the striatum were reduced only 12% by ethanol, and those of the brainstem pedunculopontine/lateral dorsal tegmental nuclei (Ch5/Ch6) were not significantly reduced. Similarly, ethanol did not significantly reduce dopamine cells of the ventral tegmental area/substantia nigra or serotonin cells in the in the dorsal raphe nucleus. Orexin (hypocretin) cells in the hypothalamus showed a modest reduction (14%). Our findings indicate that the basal forebrain is especially vulnerable to alcohol exposure in the late gestational period. Reduction of cholinergic and GABAergic projection neurons from the basal forebrain that regulate forebrain arousal may contribute to the behavioral and cognitive deficits associated with neonatal ethanol exposure.
Odor identity can be extracted from the reciprocal connectivity between olfactory bulb and piriform cortex in humans
Neuronal oscillations route external and internal information across brain regions. In the olfactory system, the two central nodes-the olfactory bulb (OB) and the piriform cortex (PC)-communicate with each other via neural oscillations to shape the olfactory percept. Communication between these nodes have been well characterized in non-human animals but less is known about their role in the human olfactory system. Using a recently developed and validated EEG-based method to extract signals from the OB and PC sources, we show in healthy human participants that there is a bottom-up information flow from the OB to the PC in the beta and gamma frequency bands, while top-down information from the PC to the OB is facilitated by delta and theta oscillations. Importantly, we demonstrate that there was enough information to decipher odor identity above chance from the low gamma in the OB-PC oscillatory circuit as early as 100Â ms after odor onset. These data further our understanding of the critical role of bidirectional information flow in human sensory systems to produce perception. However, future studies are needed to determine what specific odor information is extracted and communicated in the information exchange.
Good scents: A short road from olfaction toÂ satisfaction
We rapidly classify odors as pleasant or aversive, but the brain circuits underlying how odors motivate approach and avoidance responses are largely unknown. New research describes a direct path from the olfactory bulb to ventral striatum driving odor-mediated reward.
Post-exposure environment modulates long-term developmental ethanol effects on behavior, neuroanatomy, and cortical oscillations
Developmental exposure to ethanol has a wide range of anatomical, cellular, physiological and behavioral impacts that can last throughout life. In humans, this cluster of effects is termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and is highly prevalent in western cultures. The ultimate expression of the effects of developmental ethanol exposure however can be influenced by post-exposure experience. Here we examined the effects of developmental binge exposure to ethanol (postnatal day 7) in C57BL/6By mice on a specific cohort of inter-related long-term outcomes including contextual memory, hippocampal parvalbumin-expressing neuron density, frontal cortex oscillations related to sleep-wake cycling including delta oscillation amplitude and sleep spindle density, and home-cage behavioral activity. When assessed in adults that were raised in standard housing, all of these factors were altered by early ethanol exposure compared to saline controls except home-cage activity. However, exposure to an enriched environment and exercise from weaning to postnatal day 90 reversed most of these ethanol-induced impairments including memory, CA1 but not dentate gyrus PV+ cell density, delta oscillations and sleep spindles, and enhanced home-cage behavioral activity in Saline- but not EtOH-treated mice. The results are discussed in terms of the inter-dependence of diverse developmental ethanol outcomes and potential mechanisms of post-exposure experiences to regulate those outcomes.
Adverse caregiving in infancy blunts neural processing of the mother
The roots of psychopathology frequently take shape during infancy in the context of parent-infant interactions and adversity. Yet, neurobiological mechanisms linking these processes during infancy remain elusive. Here, using responses to attachment figures among infants who experienced adversity as a benchmark, we assessed rat pup cortical local field potentials (LFPs) and behaviors exposed to adversity in response to maternal rough and nurturing handling by examining its impact on pup separation-reunion with the mother. We show that during adversity, pup cortical LFP dynamic range decreased during nurturing maternal behaviors, but was minimally impacted by rough handling. During reunion, adversity-experiencing pups showed aberrant interactions with mother and blunted cortical LFP. Blocking pup stress hormone during either adversity or reunion restored typical behavior, LFP power, and cross-frequency coupling. This translational approach suggests adversity-rearing produces a stress-induced aberrant neurobehavioral processing of the mother, which can be used as an early biomarker of later-life pathology.
Non-invasive recording from the human olfactory bulb
Current non-invasive neuroimaging methods can assess neural activity in all areas of the human brain but the olfactory bulb (OB). The OB has been suggested to fulfill a role comparable to that of V1 and the thalamus in the visual system and have been closely linked to a wide range of olfactory tasks and neuropathologies. Here we present a method for non-invasive recording of signals from the human OB with millisecond precision. We demonstrate that signals obtained via recordings from EEG electrodes at the nasal bridge represent responses from the human olfactory bulb - recordings we term Electrobulbogram (EBG). The EBG will aid future olfactory-related translational work but can also potentially be implemented as an everyday clinical tool to detect pathology-related changes in human central olfactory processing in neurodegenerative diseases. In conclusion, the EBG is localized to the OB, is reliable, and follows response patterns demonstrated in non-human animal models.