Research Topic

Olfactory memory networks: from emotional learning to social behaviors

About this Research Topic

Odors are powerful stimuli that can evoke emotional states, and support learning and memory. Decades of research have indicated that the neural basis for this strong “odor-emotional memory” connection is due to the uniqueness of the anatomy of the olfactory pathways. Indeed, unlike the other sensory systems, ...

Odors are powerful stimuli that can evoke emotional states, and support learning and memory. Decades of research have indicated that the neural basis for this strong “odor-emotional memory” connection is due to the uniqueness of the anatomy of the olfactory pathways. Indeed, unlike the other sensory systems, the sense of smell does not pass through the thalamus to be routed to the cortex. Rather, odor information is relayed directly to the limbic system, a brain region typically associated with memory and emotional processes. This provides olfaction with a unique and potent power to influence mood, acquisition of new information, and use of information in many different contexts. including social interactions. Indeed, olfaction is crucially involved in behaviors essential for survival of the individual and species, including identification of predators, recognition of individuals for procreation or social hierarchy, location of food, as well as attachment between mating pairs and infant-caretaker dyads. Importantly, odors are sampled through sniffing behavior. This active sensing plays an important role in exploratory behaviors observed in the different contexts mentioned above. Odors are also critical for learning and memory about events and places and constitute efficient retrieval cues for the recall of emotional episodic memories.
This broad role for odors appears highly preserved across species. In addition, the consistent early developmental emergence of the olfactory function across diverse species also provides a unique window of opportunity for analysis of myriad behavioral systems from rodents to nonhuman primates and humans. This combined with the relatively conserved organization of the olfactory system in mammals, provides a powerful framework to explore how complex behaviors can be modulated by odors to produce adaptative responses, and to investigate the underlying neural networks.
In this research topic, we welcome original and review articles, as well as opinion, methods and modeling papers from both human and animal research, covering the following issues (although the list is not exhaustive):
• Neural and pharmacological bases of olfactory memory : in adulthood and through development
• Olfactory-based social interactions: mother-offspring bonding, pair bonding, peer recognition, social hierarchy, social transmission of fear…
• Emotional olfactory memory: conditioned odor fear, unconditioned odor fear, alarm pheromones…
• Sniffing behavior and its modulation during olfactory learning and/or social behaviors
The goal of this Research Topic is to bring together cutting edge research on diverse species and developmental stages, highlighting convergence and divergence between humans and animals to facilitate translational research.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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