Adding and subtracting certain neurons tells researchers whether a locust can smell an odor
Smell a cup of coffee.
Smell it inside or outside, summer or winter, in a coffee shop with a scone -- coffee smells like coffee.
Why don't other smells or different environmental factors get in the way of the experience of smelling individual odors? Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis turned to the locust to find out.
What they found was surprisingly simple, according to Barani Raman, a biomedical engineer, and colleagues. The results were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The U.S. National Science Foundation-funded scientists have been studying locusts for years, watching their brains and their behaviors related to smell in an attempt to engineer bomb-sniffing locusts. Along the way, they've made substantial gains in understanding the mechanisms of smell.