Spatial perception of odorants in cockroaches

A recent study involving researchers from the University of Konstanz has described the first neural architecture capable of encoding the spatial location of odorants

A rose constitutes a three-dimensional arrangement of petals, leaves and a stem that generates a corresponding spatial representation in the brain. Because neighbouring cells work together, objects close to each other in the real world are represented close to each other in the brain. Similarly, when someone touches someone else’s hand, a tactile sensation is projected onto the somatosensory cortex, faithfully representing the original location of the stimulus on the body. This inner representation of the outer body surface has been described as a visual or sensory “homunculus”. What remains unclear is whether there is also something like an “olfactory homunculus”, i.e. whether our sense of smell can convey spatial information to the brain via a spatial neuron structure. A recent study conducted by researchers from Japan and by Professor Galizia’s neurobiology working group was able to show – for the first time – the existence of a spatial representation of the olfactory space in the brain of a cockroach. The results have been published in the online edition of Current Biology. Read more ...