How mice detect different odours

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Mice can detect minute differences in the timing of activities in neurons of the olfactory system, a sensory system used for the sense of smell, a study has suggested.

These new findings were built upon earlier evidence that olfactory processing in mice included temporal information about sniffing.

“We knew from prior work that mice could accurately determine when their olfactory system was stimulated relative to the timing of sniffs,” said lead author Justus Verhagen, an associate professor at John B. Pierce Laboratory in New Haven, US.

“We now know that mice can also obtain this information directly by comparing the timing of activities among neurons,” Verhagen added.

The neural population dynamics, therefore, are important for the sense of smell both independently of and relative to sniffing, the authors pointed out.

For the study, the research team used light in genetically-engineered mice to precisely control the activity of neurons in the olfactory bulbs in mice performing a discrimination task.

The study appeared in the journal PLOS Biology.

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