The European journal of neuroscience

Odour coding is bilaterally symmetrical in the antennal lobes of honeybees (Apis mellifera).

PMID 9758166


The primary olfactory neuropil, the antennal lobe (AL) in insects, is organized in glomeruli. Glomerular activity patterns are believed to represent the across-fibre pattern of the olfactory code. These patterns depend on an organized innervation from the afferent receptor cells, and interconnections of local interneurons. It is unclear how the complex organization of the AL is achieved ontogenetically. In this study, we measured the functional activity patterns elicited by stimulation with odours in the right and the left AL of the same honeybee (Apis mellifera) using optical imaging of the calcium-sensitive dye calcium green. We show here that these patterns are bilaterally symmetrical (n=25 bees). This symmetry holds true for all odours tested, irrespective of their role as pheromones or as environmental odours, or whether they were pure substances or complex blends (n=13 odours). Therefore, we exclude that activity dependent mechanisms local to one AL determine the functional glomerular activity. This identity is genetically predetermined. Alternatively, if activity dependent processes are involved, bilateral connections would have to shape symmetry, or, temporal constraints could lead to identical patterns on both sides due to their common history of odour exposure.

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