• olfactory bulb;
  • electrical stimulation;
  • local infusion;
  • olfactory learning;
  • long-term memory


Current advances in the neurobiology of learning and memory suggest the existence of experience-induced plasticity in sensorial pathways conveying relevant information to higher integrative brain structures. For instance, olfactory learning is known to induce long-lasting modifications of neural activity at the level of the first relay structure of the olfactory system, the olfactory bulb. The observed forms of plasticity depend on the action exerted during learning by ascending neuromodulatory systems, such as the noradrenergic (NA) system originating from the locus ceruleus. This study was aimed at investigating the importance of olfactory bulb plasticity in learning and retention of an olfactory task. In a daily training schedule animals had to learn to use multi-site electrical stimulation patterns of the olfactory bulb as discriminative cues for choosing between a palatable and a nonpalatable solution. We first examined the effects of a continuous intrabulbar infusion of propranolol (a β-NA receptor antagonist) carried out during the learning period. We found that this treatment neither impaired the retention of a previously learned task nor the learning of a new task. However, the animals presented a severe deficit in long-term retention (>5 days) of the task learned under perfusion. Unexpectedly, this effect cannot be ascribed to a selective blockade of β-NA receptors since infusion of the drug vehicle (saline-ascorbate) produced exactly the same deficit while a saline solution remained without effect. A final experiment showed that the selective deficit in long-term retention was not observed when the infusion of the saline-ascorbate solution started on the day following completion of learning. Taken together, these results suggest that ascorbate-sensitive neural processes occurring within the olfactory bulb during learning are of functional importance for long-term storage of olfactory information.