High-speed odor transduction and pulse tracking by insect olfactory receptor neurons

Paul Szyszka, Richard Gerkin, C. Giovanni Galizia, Brian Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Sensory systems encode both the static quality of a stimulus (e.g., color or shape) and its kinetics (e.g., speed and direction). The limits with which stimulus kinetics can be resolved are well understood in vision, audition, and somatosensation. However, the maximum temporal resolution of olfactory systems has not been accurately determined. Here, we probe the limits of temporal resolution in insect olfaction by delivering high frequency odor pulses and measuring sensory responses in the antennae. We show that transduction times and pulse tracking capabilities of olfactory receptor neurons are faster than previously reported. Once an odorant arrives at the boundary layer of the antenna, odor transduction can occur within less than 2 ms and fluctuating odor stimuli can be resolved at frequencies more than 100 Hz. Thus, insect olfactory receptor neurons can track stimuli of very short duration, as occur when their antennae encounter narrow filaments in an odor plume. These results provide a new upper bound to the kinetics of odor tracking in insect olfactory receptor neurons and to the latency of initial transduction events in olfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16925-16930
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number47
StatePublished - Nov 25 2014


  • Insect
  • Odor transduction
  • Olfaction
  • Olfactory receptor neurons
  • Temporal resolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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