Olfactory modulation of barrel cortex activity during active whisking and passive whisker stimulation

Anthony Renard, Evan R. Harrell, Brice Bathellier
Nat Commun. 2022-07-02; 13(1):
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-31565-0

Rodents depend on olfaction and touch to meet many of their fundamental needs. However, the impact of simultaneous olfactory and tactile inputs on sensory representations in the cortex remains elusive. To study these interactions, we recorded large populations of barrel cortex neurons using 2-photon calcium imaging in head-fixed mice during olfactory and tactile stimulation. Here we show that odors bidirectionally alter activity in a small but significant population of barrel cortex neurons through at least two mechanisms, first by enhancing whisking, and second by a central mechanism that persists after whisking is abolished by facial nerve sectioning. Odor responses have little impact on tactile information, and they are sufficient for decoding odor identity, while behavioral parameters like whisking, sniffing, and facial movements are not odor identity-specific. Thus, barrel cortex activity encodes specific olfactory information that is not linked with odor-induced changes in behavior.

Auteurs Bordeaux Neurocampus