Representation of binary pheromone blends by glomerulus-specific olfactory projection neurons

T. Heinbockel, T. A. Christensen, J. G. Hildebrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


An outstanding challenge in olfactory neurobiology is to explain how glomerular networks encode information about stimulus mixtures, which are typical of natural olfactory stimuli. In the moth Manduca sexta, a species-specific blend of two sex-pheromone components is required for reproductive signaling. Each component stimulates a different population of olfactory receptor cells that in turn target two identified glomeruli in the macroglomerular complex of the male's antennal lobe. Using intracellular recording and staining, we examined how responses of projection neurons innervating these glomeruli are modulated by changes in the level and ratio of the two essential components in stimulus blends. Compared to projection neurons specific for one component, projection neurons that integrated information about the blend (received excitatory input from one component and inhibitory input from the other) showed enhanced ability to track a train of stimulus pulses. The precision of stimulus-pulse tracking was furthermore optimized at a synthetic blend ratio that mimics the physiological response to an extract of the female's pheromone gland. Optimal responsiveness of a projection neuron to repetitive stimulus pulses therefore appears to depend not only on stimulus intensity but also on the relative strength of the two opposing synaptic inputs that are integrated by macroglomerular complex projection neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1023-1037
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Antennal lobe
  • Glomerulus
  • Neural coding
  • Olfaction
  • Synaptic integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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