Smell and behavior

Smell and behavior

Interconnection in action

Scientists are just beginning to study the mechanisms and neural bonds that are responsible for responsible for odour-induced behavior. The first step was taken by showing the existence of a neural pathway connecting the olfactory and motor centers of the brain in invertebrates with the C. elegans worm and in vertebrates with a mine, a primitive, acne fish characteristic of the Atlantic Ocean.

In a new study published in PLoS Biology, scientists at Université de Montréal, in Quebec, and the University of Windsor, in Ontario, demonstrated that the brake circuit, releasing the GABA neurotransmitter into the olfactory bulb strongly modulates the behavior of disturbed odors in lampreys. A detailed study of these modulation mechanisms has allowed researchers to discover a new path linking the olfactory and motor centers of the brain.

This discovery demonstrates that odourscan activate locomotor centers via two distinct brain pathways,” said lead author Gheylen Daghfous, a researcher in the laboratory of UdeM neuroscience associate professor Réjean Dubuc, also a professor at Université du Québec à Montréal. “This work shed new light on the evolution of the olfactory systems in vertebrates.”

He added: “It is well-known that animals are attracted to odors, whether it be a dog tracking its prey or a shark attracted to blood. On the other hand, we are only beginning to understand how the brain uses odors to produce behavior. Our study revealed a new brain highway dedicated to transmitting smell information to the regions controlling movements.”

Funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC), with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the study is the result of a long-standing collaboration between Dubuc and Windsor’s Barbara Zielinski.

“Our purpose was to identify the neural circuitry linking olfaction to locomotion in lampreys,” a parasitic type of fish that attach themselves to other fish and suck their blood, leaving a gaping wound, said Dubuc. “Lampreys invaded the Great Lakes decades ago and have decimated large populations of fish, with major commercial impact. The GLFC is looking for new means to control lamprey populations, and attracting them using olfactory stimuli is one such avenue.”


Source: Materials provided by University of Montreal.