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Hebbian STDP in mushroom bodies facilitates the synchronous flow of olfactory information in locusts


Odour representations in insects undergo progressive transformations and decorrelation1,2,3 from the receptor array to the presumed site of odour learning, the mushroom body4,5,6,7. There, odours are represented by sparse assemblies of Kenyon cells in a large population2. Using intracellular recordings in vivo, we examined transmission and plasticity at the synapse made by Kenyon cells onto downstream targets in locusts. We find that these individual synapses are excitatory and undergo hebbian spike-timing dependent plasticity (STDP)8,9,10 on a ±25 ms timescale. When placed in the context of odour-evoked Kenyon cell activity (a 20-Hz oscillatory population discharge), this form of STDP enhances the synchronization of the Kenyon cells’ targets and thus helps preserve the propagation of the odour-specific codes through the olfactory system.

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Figure 1: Synaptic connections between individual Kenyon cells and β-LNs are excitatory, powerful and varied in gain.
Figure 2: β-LN tuning and spike-time precision during responses to odours.
Figure 3: Hebbian spike-time-dependent plasticity at the KC–β-LN synapse.
Figure 4: The effect of STDP on β-LN spike timing.


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This work was supported by an NIH training grant, grants from the NIDCD, and the Lawrence Hanson Fund. We thank E. Schuman, I. Fiete, M. Murthy, M. Papadopoulou, O. Mazor, V. Jayaraman and the reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Gilles Laurent.

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Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Figure S1 with Legend which shows morphology of one bLN in the population studied (whole-mount). (PDF 1833 kb)

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Cassenaer, S., Laurent, G. Hebbian STDP in mushroom bodies facilitates the synchronous flow of olfactory information in locusts. Nature 448, 709–713 (2007).

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