Research Article

Encoding Pheromonal Signals in the Accessory Olfactory Bulb of Behaving Mice

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Science  21 Feb 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5610, pp. 1196-1201
DOI: 10.1126/science.1082133

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Many mammalian species rely on pheromones—semiochemicals produced by other members of the same species—to communicate social status and reproductive readiness. To assess how the central nervous system integrates the complex repertoire of pheromones, we recorded from single neurons in the accessory olfactory bulb, a nucleus that processes pheromonal signals, of male mice engaged in natural behaviors. Neuronal firing was robustly modulated by physical contact with male and female conspecifics, with individual neurons activated selectively by specific combinations of the sex and strain of conspecifics. We infer that mammals encode social and reproductive information by integrating vomeronasal sensory activity specific to sex and genetic makeup.

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