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Neural Circuit Dynamics and Ensemble Coding in the Locust and Fruit Fly Olfactory System


Jayaraman, Vivek (2007) Neural Circuit Dynamics and Ensemble Coding in the Locust and Fruit Fly Olfactory System. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/A4VB-6C23.


Raw sensory information is usually processed and reformatted by an organism’s brain to carry out tasks like identification, discrimination, tracking and storage. The work presented in this dissertation focuses on the processing strategies of neural circuits in the early olfactory system in two insects, the locust and the fruit fly.

Projection neurons (PNs) in the antennal lobe (AL) respond to an odor presented to the locust’s antennae by firing in slow information-carrying temporal patterns, consistent across trials. Their downstream targets, the Kenyon cells (KCs) of the mushroom body (MB), receive input from large ensembles of transiently synchronous PNs at a time. The information arrives in slices of time corresponding to cycles of oscillatory activity originating in the AL.

In the first part of the thesis, ensemble-level analysis techniques are used to understand how the AL-MB system deals with the problem of identifying odors across different concentrations. Individual PN odor responses can vary dramatically with concentration, but invariant patterns in PN ensemble responses are shown to allow odor identity to be extracted across a wide range of intensities by the KCs. Second, the sensitivity of the early olfactory system to stimulus history is examined. The PN ensemble and the KCs are found capable of tracking an odor in most conditions where it is pulsed or overlapping with another, but they occasionally fail (are masked) or reach intermediate states distinct from those seen for the odors presented alone or in a static mixture.

The last part of the thesis focuses on the development of new recording techniques in the fruit fly, an organism with well-studied genetics and behavior. Genetically expressed fluorescent sensors of calcium offer the best available option to study ensemble activity in the fly. Here, simultaneous electrophysiology and two-photon imaging are used to estimate the correlation between G-CaMP, a popular genetically expressible calcium sensor, and electrical activity in PNs. The sensor is found to have poor temporal resolution and to miss significant spiking activity. More generally, this combination of electrophysiology and imaging enables explorations of functional connectivity and calibrated imaging of ensemble activity in the fruit fly.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:dimensionality reduction; drosophila; neural coding; neuroscience; sensory systems; systems neuroscience
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Computation and Neural Systems
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Laurent, Gilles J.
Thesis Committee:
  • Winfree, Erik (chair)
  • Koch, Christof
  • Schuman, Erin Margaret
  • Laurent, Gilles J.
  • Konishi, Masakazu
  • Dickinson, Michael H.
Defense Date:23 October 2006
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-05192007-195030
Persistent URL:
Jayaraman, Vivek0000-0003-3680-7378
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:1877
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:23 May 2007
Last Modified:30 Aug 2022 22:59

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