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Sunday, July 19 • 5:00pm - 5:20pm
O6: Analysis and Modelling of Response Features of Accessory Olfactory Bulb Neurons

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Yoram Ben-Shaul, Rohini Bansal, Romana Stopkova, Maximilian Nagel, Pavel Stopka, Marc Spehr

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The broad goal of this work is to understand how consistency on a macroscopic scale can be achieved despite random connectivity at the level of individual neurons.

A central aspect of any sensory system is the manner by which features of the external world are represented by neurons at various processing stages. Yet, it is not always clear what these features are, how they are represented, and how they emerge mechanistically. Here, we investigate this issue in the context of the vomeronasal system (VNS), a vertebrate chemosensory system specialized for processing of cues from other organisms. We focus on the accessory olfactory bulb AOB, which receives all vomeronasal sensory neuron inputs. Unlike the main olfactory system, where MTCs sample information from a single receptor type, AOB MTCs sample information from a variable number of glomeruli, in a manner that seems largely random. This apparently random connectivity is puzzling given the presumed role of this system in processing cues with innately relevant significance.

We use multisite extracellular recordings to measure the responses of mouse AOB MTCs to controlled presentation of natural urine stimuli from male and female mice from various strains, including from wild mice. Crucially, we also measured the levels of both volatile and peptide chemical components in the very same stimulus samples that were presented to the mice. As subjects, we used two genetically distinct mouse strains, allowing us to test if macroscopic similarity can emerge despite variability at the level of receptor expression.

First, we then explored neuronal receptive fields, and found that neurons selective for specific strains (regardless of sex), or a specific sex (regardless of strain), are less common than expected by chance. This is consistent with our previous findings indicating that high level stimulus features are represented in a distributed manner in the AOB. We then compared various aspects of neuronal responses across the two strains, and found a high degree of correlation among them, suggesting that despite apparent randomness and strain specific genetic aspects, consistent features emerge at the level of the AOB.

Next, we set out to model the responses of AOB neurons. Briefly, AOB responses to a given stimulus are modelled as dot products of random tuning profiles to specific chemicals and the actual level of those chemicals in the stimulus. In this manner we derive a population of AOB responses, which we can then compare to the measured responses. Our analysis thus far reveals several important insights. First, neuronal response properties are best accounted for by sampling of protein/peptide components, but not by volatile urinary components. This is consistent with the known physiology of the VNS. Second, several response features (population level neuronal distances, sparseness, distribution of receptive field types) are best reproduced in the model with random sampling of multiple, rather than single molecules per neuron. This suggests that the sampling mode of AOB neurons may mitigate some of the consequences of random sampling. Finally, we note that random sampling of molecules provides a reasonable fit for some, but not all metrics of the observed responses. Our ongoing work aims to identify which changes must be made to our initial simplistic model in order to account for these features.

This work is funded by GIF and DFG grants to Marc Spehr and Yoram Ben-Shaul

Speakers
avatar for Yoram Ben-Shaul

Yoram Ben-Shaul

Medical Neurobiology, The Hebrew University


Sunday July 19, 2020 5:00pm - 5:20pm CEST
Crowdcast
  Oral, Sensory Systems
  • Moderator Christoph Metzner; Soledad Gonzalo Cogno