LivingMice that

Mice that

olfato-2Researchers at Harvard University (United States) have created mice that can “smell” light and that could become a powerful tool for studying the neural bases of smell. The study, which is published in the journalNature Neuroscience, has implications for research in this regard, difficult to study using traditional methods. As Venkatesh N. Murthy, responsible for the study, explains, “smells are so chemically complex that it is extremely difficult to isolate the neural circuits that underlie smell.” The scientists resorted to the techniques ofoptogenetics, which allow the integration of proteins that react to light in systems that usually detect inputs of information other than light. In this way they obtainedmodified rodents whose olfactory systems were not activated by odors but by light.

“To distinguish how the brain perceives differences between smells, it seemed more reasonable to examine brain activation patterns but it is difficult to follow these patterns using olfactory stimuli as smells are very diverse and often quite subtle. This is whywe wonder what would happen if the nose acted like a retina“Murthy clarifies.

Thanks to these experiments, the scientists were able to characterize theactivation patterns in the olfactory bulb, the region of the brain that receives information directly from the nose. According to the authors, in addition to determining the spatial organization of the olfactory bulb, the study shows howwhen the odor is detected (timing) plays an important role in how it is perceived.

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