fMRI study of olfaction in the olfactory bulb and high olfactory structures of rats: Insight into their roles in habituation

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Cerebral blood volume (CBV) fMRI with ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide particles (USPIO) as a contrast agent was used to investigate olfactory processing in rats. fMRI data were acquired in sixteen 0.75-mm coronal slices covering the olfactory bulb (OB) and higher olfactory regions (HOR), including the anterior olfactory nucleus and piriform cortex. For each animal, multiple consecutive fMRI measurements were made during a 3-h experiment session, with each measurement consisting of a baseline period, an odorant stimulation period, and a recovery period. Two different stimulation paradigms with a stimulation period of 40 s or 80 s, respectively, were used to study olfactory processing. Odorant-induced CBV increases were robustly observed in the OB and HOR of each individual animal. Olfactory adaptation, which is characterized by an attenuation of responses to continuous exposure or repeated stimulations, has different characteristics in the OB and HOR. For adaptation to repeated stimuli, while it was observed in both the OB and HOR, CBV responses in the HOR were attenuated more significantly than responses in the OB. In contrast, within each continuous 40-s or 80-s odor exposure, CBV responses in the OB were stable and did not show adaptation, but the CBV responses in the HOR were state dependent, with no adaptation during initial exposures, but significant adaptation during following exposures. These results support previous reports that HOR plays a more significant role than OB in olfactory habituation. The technical approach presented in this study should enable more extensive fMRI studies of olfactory processing in rats.

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