Mice exposed to scents of mint or fresh cut grass before and shortly after birth show increased responses in a specific population of odor-processing neurons to a variety of odors, according to new research published in eNeuro. The study demonstrates how early experience shapes the brain's processing of the sense of smell.
Annie Liu and Nathaniel Urban fed breeding pairs of mice food infused with two odorants that have distinct smells that activate different but overlapping areas of the olfactory bulb: methyl salicylate, which smells like wintergreen, or hexanal, which smells like cut grass. The litters were then weaned onto the same diet as their parents. During exposure to varying concentrations of eight different odors, mice exposed to one of the scented diets during gestation and early life had stronger responses of a greater number of mitral cells -- which receive inputs from scent receptors and transmit that information to other parts of the brain -- than mice exposed to the unscented control diet during the same period. This effect did not depend on the particular odor to which mice were exposed; mice exposed to either one of the scented diets displayed heightened mitral cell responses to all presented odors.
Article: Prenatal and early postnatal odorant exposure heightens odor-evoked mitral cell responses in the mouse olfactory bulb
eNeuro, the Society for Neuroscience's new open-access journal launched in 2014, publishes rigorous neuroscience research with double-blind peer review that masks the identity of both the authors and reviewers, minimizing the potential for implicit biases. eNeuro is distinguished by a broader scope and balanced perspective achieved by publishing negative results, failure to replicate or replication studies. New research, computational neuroscience, theories and methods are also published.
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The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.