Odor identification in rats: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence of learned olfactory-auditory associations

Jonas K. Olofsson, Guangyu Zhou, Brett S. East, Christina Zelano, Donald A. Wilson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The ability to recognize and identify a smell is highly dependent on multisensory context and expectation, for example, hearing the name of the odor source. Here, we develop a novel auditory-odor association task in rats, wherein the animal learns that a specific auditory tone, when associated with a specific odor, predicts reward (Go signal), whereas the same tone associated with a different odor, or vice versa, is not (No-Go signal). The tone occurs prior to the onset of the odor, allowing physiological analyses of sensory-evoked local field potential (LFP) activity to each stimulus in primary auditory cortex and anterior piriform cortex (aPCX). In trained animals that have acquired the task, both auditory and subsequent olfactory cues activate β band oscillations in both the auditory cortex and PCX, suggesting multisensory integration. Naive animals show no such multisensory responses, suggesting the response is learned. In addition to the learned multisensory evoked responses, functional connectivity between auditory cortex and PCX, as assessed with spectral coherence and phase lag index (PLI), is enhanced. Importantly, both the multi-sensory evoked responses and the functional connectivity are context-dependent. In trained animals, the same auditory stimuli presented in the home cage evoke no responses in auditory cortex or PCX, and functional connectivity between the sensory cortices is reduced. Together, the results demonstrate how learning and context shape the expression of multisensory cortical processing. Given that odor identification impairment is associated with preclinical dementia in humans, the mechanisms suggested here may help develop experimental models to assess effects of neuropathology on behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberENEURO.0102-19.2019
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


  • Auditory perception
  • Electrophysiology
  • Learning
  • Olfaction
  • Sensation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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