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Cellular-resolution population imaging reveals robust sparse coding in the Drosophila mushroom body.

Authors
  • Honegger, Kyle S
  • Campbell, Robert A A
  • Turner, Glenn C
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Neuroscience
Publisher
Society for Neuroscience
Publication Date
Aug 17, 2011
Volume
31
Issue
33
Pages
11772–11785
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1099-11.2011
PMID: 21849538
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Sensory stimuli are represented in the brain by the activity of populations of neurons. In most biological systems, studying population coding is challenging since only a tiny proportion of cells can be recorded simultaneously. Here we used two-photon imaging to record neural activity in the relatively simple Drosophila mushroom body (MB), an area involved in olfactory learning and memory. Using the highly sensitive calcium indicator GCaMP3, we simultaneously monitored the activity of >100 MB neurons in vivo (∼5% of the total population). The MB is thought to encode odors in sparse patterns of activity, but the code has yet to be explored either on a population level or with a wide variety of stimuli. We therefore imaged responses to odors chosen to evaluate the robustness of sparse representations. Different odors activated distinct patterns of MB neurons; however, we found no evidence for spatial organization of neurons by either response probability or odor tuning within the cell body layer. The degree of sparseness was consistent across a wide range of stimuli, from monomolecular odors to artificial blends and even complex natural smells. Sparseness was mainly invariant across concentrations, largely because of the influence of recent odor experience. Finally, in contrast to sensory processing in other systems, no response features distinguished natural stimuli from monomolecular odors. Our results indicate that the fundamental feature of odor processing in the MB is to create sparse stimulus representations in a format that facilitates arbitrary associations between odor and punishment or reward.

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