Journal Article

Rapid Classical Conditioning of Odor Response in a Physiological Model for Olfactory Research, the Tiger Salamander

Kathleen M. Dorries, Joel White and John S. Kauer

in Chemical Senses

Volume 22, issue 3, pages 277-286
Published in print June 1997 | ISSN: 0379-864X
Published online June 1997 | e-ISSN: 1464-3553 | DOI:
Rapid Classical Conditioning of Odor Response in a Physiological Model for Olfactory Research, the Tiger Salamander

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In recent years there have been a number of important advances in the understanding of cellular mechanisms related to olfactory function. Hypotheses regarding the complex relationships among odorant structure, physiological activity and behavioral outcome generated by these findings, however, remain largely untested due to a paucity of psychophysical data on stimulus discrimination in the same experimental species. Comparisons between behavioral and physiological responses are essential for elucidating the critical aspects of stimulus coding in sensory systems. We have developed a method for generating psychophysical data in one of the primary model species used in olfactory research, the tiger salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum. These psychophysical experiments are carried out under the same conditions as physiological experiments in our laboratory. Using classical conditioning, individual salamanders are trained over a period of 2–3 h to show skin potential responses to odor and not air. Failure to train using backward pairing demonstrates that the response is not due to sensitization or pseudoconditioning. The conditioned response is mediated by the olfactory pathway, as it is blocked by olfactory nerve section. We show that salamanders detect three odorants that are commonly used stimuli in physiological experiments (butyl alcohol, butyl acetate and amyl acetate), but cannot detect a fourth common experimental odorant, camphor. This method should be a powerful tool for studying olfactory information processing by providing data on discriminability of stimuli used in salamander physiological studies. Chem. Senses 22: 277–286, 1997.

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Subjects: Molecular and Cell Biology

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