Odor Perception

Understanding how nerve cells are wired together into functional circuits is essential to understanding how the brain works. Traditional anatomical techniques can reveal the structure of neuronal circuits. However, determining which nerve cells actually communicate with one another in a complex circuit is more challenging. Recent advances in genetics have ushered in a new age of functional circuit mapping. We can genetically ‘tag’ specific populations of neurons in the intact mouse brain with a light-activated channel, allowing us to selectively activate spatially-defined subsets of neurons with light. Using this photostimulation-based approach, we plan to map the strengths of local circuit connections in the olfactory bulb, a part of the brain that processes sensory information about smell. We use the olfactory system because it is well-characterized, genetically tractable, and functionally important to the animal. The research described here will allow us to address fundamental questions about sensory processing that were previously not possible to address using traditional techniques. Future work will focus on how the activation of specific circuits using light elicits or influences odor perception. The ‘optogenetic’ approach described here can also be further exploited to study other parts of the mammalian brain.

Other Grants

Sarah C. Goetz, Ph.D., Duke University
Uncovering a Novel Role for Primary Cilia in Eph/Ephrin Signaling in Neurons
2022 Seed GrantSarah C. Goetz, Ph.D. Duke University Women’s Council Seed Grant Primary cilia are tiny projections from cells that function like an antenna- they receive and may also send…
Erin M. Gibson, Ph.D., Stanford University
Circadian Regulation of Oligodendroglial Senescence and Metabolomics in Aging
2022 Seed GrantErin M. Gibson, Ph.D.Stanford University The brain consists of two main classes of cells, neurons and glia. Glia make-up more than half of the cells in the brain…
Yvette Fisher, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Dynamic Modulation of Synaptic Plasticity During Spatial Exploration
2022 Seed GrantYvette Fisher, Ph.D.University of California, Berkeley The Virginia (Ginny) & Roger Carlson Seed Grant Cognitive flexibility is critical for appropriately adjusting thoughts and behaviors to meet changing demands…
Byoung Il Bae, Ph.D., University of Connecticut
Unique Vulnerability of Developing Human Cerebral Cortex to Loss of Centrosomal Protein
2022 Seed GrantByoung Il Bae, Ph.D.University of Connecticut Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation Seed Grant The cerebral cortex is the largest and outermost part of the human brain. It is…