The Vomeronasal System Can Learn Novel Stimulus Response Pairings

Karen Marom, Noa Horesh, Asmahan Abu-Snieneh, Amnon Dafni, Rachel Paul, David Fleck, Marc Spehr, Yoram Ben-Shaul*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Behavioral responses can be classified as innate or learned and are often mediated by distinct neuronal pathways. In many animals, chemical cues are crucial for directing behaviors, and multiple chemosensory subsystems serve this purpose. The major subsystems in vertebrates are the main olfactory system (MOS) and the vomeronasal system (VNS). While the MOS has well-documented associative capabilities, the VNS is known for its role in mediating innate responses to sensory cues with clear ethological significance. However, it remains unknown whether the VNS can map arbitrary sensory activation to novel behavioral outputs. To address this question, we used several optogenetic strategies for selective vomeronasal activation and tested whether mice could associate stimulation patterns with particular reward locations. Our experiments indicate that mice can, indeed, exploit VNS activity to direct novel behavioral responses, implying that the VNS holds a substantial capacity for redirecting and adapting behavioral responses to given stimulation patterns.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)676-684.e6
JournalCell Reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - 16 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s)


  • accessory olfactory bulb
  • associative learning
  • plasticity
  • vomeronasal system


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