A neuronal network model of Drosophila antennal lobe

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Olfaction is an important sensory modality for behavior since odors inform animals of the presence of food, potential mates, and predators. The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is a favorable model

Olfaction is an important sensory modality for behavior since odors inform animals of the presence of food, potential mates, and predators. The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is a favorable model organism for the investigation of the biophysical mechanisms that contribute to olfaction because its olfactory system is anatomically similar to but simpler than that of vertebrates. In the Drosophila olfactory system, sensory transduction takes place in olfactory receptor neurons housed in the antennae and maxillary palps on the front of the head. The first stage of olfactory processing resides in the antennal lobe, where the structural unit is the glomerulus. There are at least three classes of neurons in the antennal lobe - excitatory projection neurons, excitatory local neurons, and inhibitory local neurons. The arborizations of the local neurons are confined to the antennal lobe, and output from the antennal lobe is carried by projection neurons to higher regions of the brain. Different views exist of how circuits of the Drosophila antennal lobe translate input from the olfactory receptor neurons into projection neuron output. We construct a conductance based neuronal network model of the Drosophila antennal lobe with the aim of understanding possible mechanisms within the antennal lobe that account for the variety of projection neuron activity observed in experimental data. We explore possible outputs obtained from olfactory receptor neuron input that mimic experimental recordings under different connectivity paradigms. First, we develop realistic minimal cell models for the excitatory local neurons, inhibitory local neurons, and projections neurons based on experimental data for Drosophila channel kinetics, and explore the firing characteristics and mathematical structure of these models. We then investigate possible interglomerular and intraglomerular connectivity patterns in the Drosophila antennal lobe, where olfactory receptor neuron input to the antennal lobe is modeled with Poisson spike trains, and synaptic connections within the antennal lobe are mediated by chemical synapses and gap junctions as described in the Drosophila antennal lobe literature. Our simulation results show that inhibitory local neurons spread inhibition among all glomeruli, where projection neuron responses are decreased relatively uniformly for connections of synaptic strengths that are homogeneous. Also, in the case of homogeneous excitatory synaptic connections, the excitatory local neuron network facilitates odor detection in the presence of weak stimuli. Excitatory local neurons can spread excitation from projection neurons that receive more input from olfactory receptor neurons to projection neurons that receive less input from olfactory receptor neurons. For the parameter values for the network models associated with these results, eLNs decrease the ability of the network to discriminate among single odors.