How sense of smell is linked with memory, cognition

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Washington: Researchers have demonstrated for the first time a way to monitor inhibitory neurons that link sense of smell with memory and cognition in mice.

Scientists from Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory (CSHL), led by Assistant Professor Stephen Shea, was able to measure the activity of a group of inhibitory neurons that links the odour-sensing area of the brain with brain areas responsible for thought and cognition. This connection provides feedback so that memories and experiences can alter the way smells are interpreted.

Shea worked with lead authors on the study: Brittany Cazakoff , graduate student in CSHL's Watson School of Biological Sciences, and Billy Lau, PhD, a post doctoral fellow to engineer a system to observe granule cells for the first time in awake animals.

Granule cells relay the information they receive from neurons involved in memory and cognition back to the olfactory bulb.

There, the granule cells inhibit the neurons that receive sensory inputs. In this way, "the granule cells provide a way for the brain to 'talk' to the sensory information as it comes in," explains Shea. "You can think of these cells as conduits which allow experiences to shape incoming data."

The study has been published in journal Nature Neuroscience.