Combinatorial Effects of Odorant Mixes in Olfactory Cortex

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Science  10 Mar 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5766, pp. 1477-1481
DOI: 10.1126/science.1124755

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In mammals, each odorant is detected by a combination of different odorant receptors. Signals from different types of receptors are segregated in the nose and the olfactory bulb, but appear to be combined in individual neurons in the olfactory cortex. Here, we report that binary odorant mixes stimulate cortical neurons that are not stimulated by their individual component odorants. We propose that cortical neurons require combinations of receptor inputs for activation and that merging the receptor codes of two odorants provides novel combinations of receptor inputs that stimulate neurons beyond those activated by the single odorants. These findings may explain why odorant mixtures can elicit novel odor percepts in humans.

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