A major challenge in neuroscience is relating neuronal activity to animal behavior. In olfaction limited techniques are available for these correlation studies in freely moving animals. To solve this problem, we developed an olfactory behavioral assay in head-restrained mice where we can monitor behavioral responses with high temporal precision. Mice were trained on a go/no-go operant conditioning paradigm to discriminate simple monomolecular odorants, as well as complex odorants such as binary mixtures of monomolecular odorants or natural odorants. Mice learned to discriminate both simple and complex odors in a few hundred trials with high accuracy. We then compared the discrimination performance of head-restrained mice to the performance observed in freely moving mice. Discrimination accuracies were comparable in both behavioral paradigms. In addition, discrimination times were measured while the animals performed well. In both tasks, mice discriminated simple odors in a few hundred milliseconds and took additional time to discriminate the complex mixtures. In conclusion, mice showed similar and efficient discrimination behavior while head-restrained compared with freely moving mice. Therefore, the head-restrained paradigm offers a relevant approach to monitor neuronal activity while animals are actively engaged in olfactory discrimination behaviors.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Date Published: 18-December-2012
Author(s): Abraham N., Guerin D., Bhaukaurally K., Carleton A.