Olfactory oscillations are pervasive throughout vertebrate and invertebrate nervous systems. Such observations have long implied that rhythmic activity patterns play a fundamental role in odor coding. Using intracranial EEG recordings from rare patients with medically resistant epilepsy, we find that theta oscillations are a distinct electrophysiological signature of olfactory processing in the human brain. Across seven patients, odor stimulation enhanced theta power in human piriform cortex, with robust effects at the level of single trials. Importantly, classification analysis revealed that piriform oscillatory activity conveys olfactory-specific information that can be decoded within 110–518 ms of a sniff, and maximally within the theta frequency band. This temporal window was also associated with increased theta-specific phase coupling between piriform cortex and hippocampus. Together these findings suggest that human piriform cortex has access to olfactory content in the time-frequency domain and can utilize these signals to rapidly differentiate odor stimuli.
Jiang, H., Schuele, S., Rosenow, J., Zelano, C., Parvizi, J., Tao, J. X., … Gottfried, J. A. (2017). Theta Oscillations Rapidly Convey Odor-Specific Content in Human Piriform Cortex. Neuron, 94(1), 207-219.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2017.03.021