Scientists have taught mice to smell an odour that doesn’t exist in a study to show how the brain identifies different scents.
In experiments on mice, US neuroscientists generated an electrical signature that was perceived as an odour in the brain’s smell-processing centre, the olfactory bulb.
Because the odour-simulating signal was handmade, researchers could manipulate the timing and order of related nerve signalling like musical notes.
From this, they could identify which changes were most important to the ability of mice to accurately identify the ‘synthetic smell’.
Mice were trained to recognise synthetic odour patterns through artificially stimulated neural activity in the olfactory bulb. Left, patterns like musical notes were defined in space (top right) and time (bottom right)
A neuron, also known as nerve cell, is an electrically excitable cell that takes up, processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals.