Representations of the external world in sensory cortices may define the identity of a stimulus and should therefore vary little over the life of the organism. In the olfactory system the primary olfactory cortex, piriform, is thought to determine odor identity. We have performed electrophysiological recordings of single units maintained over weeks to examine the stability of odor representations in the mouse piriform cortex. We observed that odor representations drift over time, such that the performance of a linear classifier trained on the first recording day approaches chance levels after 32 days. Daily exposure to the same odorant slows the rate of drift, but when exposure is halted that rate increases once again. Moreover, behavioral salience does not stabilize odor representations. Continuous drift poses the question of the role of piriform in odor identification. This instability may reflect the unstructured connectivity of piriform and may be a property of other unstructured cortices.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience