Sex pheromones and amino acids evoke distinctly different spatial patterns of electrical activity in the goldfish olfactory bulb

Leah R. Hanson, Peter W. Sorensen, Yosef Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Until now, electrophysiological studies of the vertebrate olfactory bulb have tested only 'generalist' cues. These studies suggest that odorants are discriminated by a broadly distributed spatial map. In this study, we tested for the first time in a vertebrate the hypothesis that 'specialist' cues (pheromones) are discriminated by a more restricted component of the olfactory bulb. Our model is the male goldfish, Carassius auratus, for which five sex pheromones with both behavioral and physiological activity have now been identified. Electrical activity (electroencephalography: EEG) was recorded over a 12-point grid from the surface of the olfactory bulb, while fish were exposed to one of ten stimuli including: five sex pheromones, two amino acids, two bile steroids and a control. Evoked activity was evaluated by time series analysis. Power ratios were calculated by dividing the power of the dominant frequency in the power spectrum before stimulation, by the power of the dominant frequency during stimulation. Next, the average magnitudes of odorant responses were compared using analysis of variance (ANOVA). The spatial patterning of these responses was also described using cluster analysis, which grouped odorants based on the similarity of their spatial patterns of activity. Although all odorants elicited EEG responses with similar dominant frequencies, odorant-specific differences were evident in the size and distribution of these responses. Sex pheromones and bile steroids elicited relatively small responses that were spatially restricted in distinctive manners, although some overlap was evident. In contrast, amino acids consistently produced large responses at all positions. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that vertebrate pheromones are discriminated by a distinctive subcomponent of the vertebrate olfactory system comprised of a relatively small number of olfactory neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-524
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 1998


Dive into the research topics of 'Sex pheromones and amino acids evoke distinctly different spatial patterns of electrical activity in the goldfish olfactory bulb'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this