, Volume 199, Issue 11, pp 911-928
Date: 10 May 2013

Mixture and odorant processing in the olfactory systems of insects: a comparative perspective

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Natural olfactory stimuli are often complex mixtures of volatiles, of which the identities and ratios of constituents are important for odor-mediated behaviors. Despite this importance, the mechanism by which the olfactory system processes this complex information remains an area of active study. In this review, we describe recent progress in how odorants and mixtures are processed in the brain of insects. We use a comparative approach toward contrasting olfactory coding and the behavioral efficacy of mixtures in different insect species, and organize these topics around four sections: (1) Examples of the behavioral efficacy of odor mixtures and the olfactory environment; (2) mixture processing in the periphery; (3) mixture coding in the antennal lobe; and (4) evolutionary implications and adaptations for olfactory processing. We also include pertinent background information about the processing of individual odorants and comparative differences in wiring and anatomy, as these topics have been richly investigated and inform the processing of mixtures in the insect olfactory system. Finally, we describe exciting studies that have begun to elucidate the role of the processing of complex olfactory information in evolution and speciation.