Thousand of local interneurons reach the olfactory bulb of adult rodents every day, but the functional effect of this process remains elusive. By selectively expressing channelrhodopsin in postnatal-born mouse neurons, we found that their activation accelerated difficult odor discrimination learning and improved memory. This amelioration was seen when photoactivation occurred simultaneously with odor presentation, but not when odor delivery lagged by 500 ms. In addition, learning was facilitated when light flashes were delivered at 40 Hz, but not at 10 Hz. Both in vitro and in vivo electrophysiological recordings of mitral cells revealed that 40-Hz stimuli produced enhanced GABAergic inhibition compared with 10-Hz stimulation. Facilitation of learning occurred specifically when photoactivated neurons were generated during adulthood. Taken together, our results demonstrate an immediate causal relationship between the activity of adult-born neurons and the function of the olfactory bulb circuit.
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