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Spatial maps in olfactory cortex during olfactory navigation

By Cindy Poo, Gautam Agarwal, Niccolo Bonacchi, Zachary Mainen

Posted 19 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.18.935494

Odors are a fundamental part of the sensory environment used by animals to inform behaviors such as foraging and navigation. Primary olfactory (piriform) cortex is thought to be dedicated to encoding odor identity. Here, using neural ensemble recordings in freely moving rats performing a novel odor-cued spatial choice task, we show that posterior piriform cortex neurons also carry a robust spatial map of the environment. Piriform spatial maps were stable across behavioral contexts independent of olfactory drive or reward availability, and the accuracy of spatial information carried by individual neurons depended on the strength of their functional coupling to the hippocampal theta rhythm. Ensembles of piriform neurons concurrently represented odor identity as well as spatial locations of animals, forming an olfactory-place map. Our results reveal a previously unknown function for piriform cortex in spatial cognition and suggest that it is well-suited to form odor-place associations and guide olfactory cued spatial navigation.

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