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Olfactory perceptual stability and discrimination


No two roses smell exactly alike, but our brain accurately bundles these variations into a single percept 'rose'. We found that ensembles of rat olfactory bulb neurons decorrelate complex mixtures that vary by as little as a single missing component, whereas olfactory (piriform) cortical neural ensembles perform pattern completion in response to an absent component, essentially filling in the missing information and allowing perceptual stability. This piriform cortical ensemble activity predicts olfactory perception.

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Figure 1: Odor discrimination and stability.
Figure 2: Piriform cortical ensembles predict behavioral discrimination.


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This work was funded by grant R01-DC03906 to D.A.W. and grant R01-DC008982 to R.L.R and D.A.W. from the US National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders.

Author information




D.C.B., R.D.H., A.R.Z., R.L.R. and D.A.W. collected and analyzed the data. D.A.W. designed the experiments and wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Donald A Wilson.

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Supplementary Figures 1 and 2, Supplementary Tables 1 and 2, Supplementary Methods and Supplementary Results (PDF 849 kb)

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Barnes, D., Hofacer, R., Zaman, A. et al. Olfactory perceptual stability and discrimination. Nat Neurosci 11, 1378–1380 (2008).

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