Heterogeneous effects of norepinephrine on spontaneous and stimulus-driven activity in the male accessory olfactory bulb

Wayne I. Doyle, Julian P. Meeks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Norepinephrine (NE) release has been linked to experience-dependent plasticity in many model systems and brain regions. Among these is the rodent accessory olfactory system (AOS), which is crucial for detecting and processing socially relevant environmental cues. The accessory olfactory bulb (AOB), the first site of chemosensory information processing in the AOS, receives dense centrifugal innervation by noradrenergic fibers originating in the locus coeruleus. Although NE release has been linked to behavioral plasticity through its actions in the AOB, the impacts of noradrenergic modulation on AOB information processing have not been thoroughly studied. We made extracellular single-unit recordings of AOB principal neurons in ex vivo preparations of the early AOS taken from adult male mice. We analyzed the impacts of bath-applied NE (10 μM) on spontaneous and stimulus-driven activity. In the presence of NE, we observed overall suppression of stimulus-driven neuronal activity with limited impact on spontaneous activity. NE-associated response suppression in the AOB came in two forms: one that was strong and immediate (21%) and one other that involved gradual, stimulus-dependent monotonic response suppression (47%). NE-associated changes in spontaneous activity were more modest, with an overall increase in spontaneous spike frequency observed in 25% of neurons. Neurons with increased spontaneous activity demonstrated a net decrease in chemosensory discriminabil-ity. These results reveal that noradrenergic signaling in the AOB causes cell-specific changes in chemosensory tuning, even among similar projection neurons. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Norepinephrine (NE) is released throughout the brain in many behavioral contexts, but its impacts on information processing are not well understood. We studied the impact of NE on chemosensory tuning in the mouse accessory olfactory bulb (AOB). Electrophysiological recordings from AOB neurons in ex vivo preparations revealed that NE, on balance, inhibited mitral cell responses to chemosensory cues. However, NE’s effects were heterogeneous, indicating that NE signaling reshapes AOB output in a cell-and stimulus-specific manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1342-1351
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 14 2017


  • Accessory olfactory bulb
  • Accessory olfactory system
  • Chemical senses
  • Information processing
  • Norepinephrine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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