Bulbar acetylcholine enhances neural and perceptual odor discrimination

Dipesh Chaudhury, Olga Escanilla, Christiane Linster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Experimental and modeling data suggest that the circuitry of the main olfactory bulb (OB) plays a critical role in olfactory discrimination. Processing of such information arises from the interaction between OB output neurons local interneurons, as well as interactions between the OB network and centrifugal inputs. Cholinergic input to the OB in particular has been hypothesized to regulate mitral cell odorants receptive fields (ORFs) and behavioral discrimination of similar odorants. We recorded from individual mitral cells in the OB in anesthetized rats to determine the degree of overlap in ORFs of individual mitral cells after exposure to odorant stimuli. Increasing the efficacy of the cholinergic neurotransmission in the OB by addition of the anticholinesterase drug neostigmine (20 mM) sharpened the ORF responses of mitral cells. Furthermore, coaddition of either the nicotinic antagonist methyllycaconitine citrate hydrate (MLA) (20mM) or muscarinic antagonist scopolamine (40 mM) together with neostigmine (20 mM) attenuated the neostigmine-dependent sharpening of ORFs. These electrophysiological findings are predictive of accompanying behavioral experiments in which cholinergic modulation was manipulated by direct infusion of neostigmine, MLA, and scopolamine into the OB during olfactory behavioral tasks. Increasing the efficacy of cholinergic action in the OB increased perceptual discrimination of odorants in these experiments, whereas blockade of nicotinic or muscarinic receptors decreased perceptual discrimination. These experiments show that behavioral discrimination is modulated in a manner predicted by the changes in mitral cell ORFs by cholinergic drugs. These results together present a first direct comparison between neural and perceptual effects of a bulbar neuromodulator.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-60
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 7 2009


  • ACh
  • Acetylcholine
  • Basal forebrain
  • Behavior
  • Neuromodulation
  • Olfactory
  • Receptive field

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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