Our laboratory studies how sensory stimuli drive behavioral responses and internal states depending on past experience. We focus at the level of neural circuits, using olfaction as a model to address three central problems.
Olfactory perception begins with the recognition of odorants by a large repertoire of olfactory receptors (OR) in the sensory epithelium. In the mouse, each sensory neuron expresses one type of receptor from ~1000 OR genes. Randomly distributed populations of sensory neurons expressing the same receptor converge onto anatomically discrete areas of the bulb called glomeruli, which form a map of odor responses that is stereotyped across animals...Learn more »
Learning plays a broad role shaping behavior in animals with imposed social structures. We humans attach personal meaning to the simple smell of coffee, or a perfume, or the aroma of a great white wine, because we inhaled them off of a loved one or shared them with a special friend. For other mammalian species, ascribing social meaning to an initially neutral stimulus may have more paramount importance; for a male, remembering the ideal location...Learn more »
Animals adapt to ever-changing environments by rapidly modifying their behavior to accommodate the evolving rules and contingencies of their current situations. In simple learning, the same stimulus always precedes the same reinforcement, likely engaging plasticity in connections between brain regions representing the stimulus and downstream areas that drive the response. However, animals regularly face stimuli in multiple situations...Learn more »
Both environmental and genetic factors contribute to the development of neurological disorders characterized by both abnormal behavioral outcomes and brain pathologies. One environmental factor that has been studied extensively is Maternal Immune Activation (MIA), which exposes a developing fetus to inflammation. In mouse models of maternal inflammation, behavioral abnormalities are observed in adult mice whose mothers...Learn more »