Leslie M. Kay1, and S. Murray Sherman
The mammalian olfactory system is unique in that sensory receptors synapse directly into the olfactory bulb of the forebrain without the thalamic relay that is common to all other sensory pathways. We argue that the olfactory bulb has an equivalent role to the thalamus, because the two regions have very similar structures and functions. Both the thalamus and the olfactory bulb are the final stage in sensory processing before reaching target cortical regions, at which there is a massive increase in neuron and synapse numbers. Thus, both structures act as a bottleneck that is a target for various modulatory inputs, and this arrangement enables efficient control of information flow before cortical processing occurs.