Odor-induced neural activity was recorded by Ca2+ imaging in the cell body region of the Drosophila mushroom body (MB), which is the second relay of the olfactory central nervous system. The signals recorded are mainly from the cell layers on the brain surface because of the limited penetration of Ca2+-sensitive dyes. The densely packed cell bodies and their accessibility allow visualization of odor-induced population neural activity. It is revealed that odors evoke diffused neural activities in the MB. Although the signals cannot be attributed to individual neurons, patterns of the population neural activity can be analyzed. The activity pattern, but not the amplitude, of an odor-induced population response is specific for the chemical identity of an odor and its concentration. The distribution pattern of neural activity can be altered specifically by genetic manipulation of an odor binding protein and this alteration is closely associated with a behavioral defect of odor preference. These results suggest that the spatial pattern of the distributed neural activity may contribute to coding of odor information at the second relay of the olfactory system.
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