The Journal of comparative neurology

Prolonged stimulus exposure reveals prolonged neurobehavioral response patterns.

PMID 20232477


Although it has been shown repeatedly that minimum response times in sensory systems can be quite short, organisms more often continue to respond to sensory stimuli over considerably longer periods of time. The continuing response to sensory stimulation may be a more realistic assessment of natural sensory responses, so we determined for how long a stimulus would evoke a response in naïve, freely moving animals. Specifically, we determined for how long such rats responded to odorants during continuous passive exposures by monitoring their sniffing with whole-body plethysmography. We found that naïve rats continue to sniff odorants vigorously for up to 3 minutes, much longer than what has been reported for highly trained, highly motivated rats. Patterns of 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG) uptake in the glomerular layer of the rat olfactory bulb also were seen after only 1-5 minutes of odorant exposure, overlapping with the period of increased respiration to odorants. Moreover, these 2-DG uptake patterns closely resembled the patterns that emerge from prolonged odorant exposures, suggesting that activity mapping over prolonged periods can identify areas of activity that are present when rats are still attending and responding to odorant stimuli. Given these findings, it seems important to consider the possibility that prolonged exposure to other sensory stimuli will reveal more realistic neural response patterns.