Learning-dependent structural plasticity in the adult olfactory pathway

Seth V. Jones, Dennis C. Choi, Michael Davis, Kerry J. Ressler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Olfactory learning in humans leads to enhanced perceptual discrimination of odor cues. Examining mouse models of both aversive and appetitive conditioning, we demonstrate a mechanism which may underlie this adult learning phenomenon. Topographically unique spatial wiring of the olfactory system allowed us to demonstrate that emotional learning of odor cues alters the primary sensory representation within the nose and brain of adult mice. Transgenic mice labeled at the M71 odorant receptor (specifically activated by the odorant acetophenone) were behaviorally trained with olfactory-dependent fear conditioning or conditioned place preference using acetophenone. Odor-trained mice had larger M71-specific glomeruli and an increase in M71-specific sensory neurons within the nose compared with mice that were untrained, trained to a non-M71 activating odorant, or had nonassociative pairings of acetophenone. These data indicate that the primary sensory neuron population and its projections may remain plastic in adults, providing a structural mechanism for learning-enhanced olfactory sensitivity and discrimination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13106-13111
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 3 2008


  • Fear
  • Glomerulus
  • Learning
  • Learning memory
  • Olfactory
  • Plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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