Learning to Smell the Roses: Experience-Dependent Neural Plasticity in Human Piriform and Orbitofrontal Cortices

Wen Li*, Erin Luxenberg, Todd Parrish, Jay A. Gottfried

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations

Abstract

It is widely presumed that odor quality is a direct outcome of odorant structure, but human studies indicate that molecular knowledge of an odorant is not always sufficient to predict odor quality. Indeed, the same olfactory input may generate different odor percepts depending on prior learning and experience. Combining functional magnetic resonance imaging with an olfactory paradigm of perceptual learning, we examined how sensory experience modifies odor perception and odor quality coding in the human brain. Prolonged exposure to a target odorant enhanced perceptual differentiation for odorants related in odor quality or functional group, an effect that was paralleled by learning-induced response increases in piriform cortex and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Critically, the magnitude of OFC activation predicted subsequent improvement in behavioral differentiation. Our findings suggest that neural representations of odor quality can be rapidly updated through mere perceptual experience, a mechanism that may underlie the development of odor perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1097-1108
Number of pages12
JournalNeuron
Volume52
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 21 2006

Keywords

  • SYSNEURO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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