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.

  • First, we are working to anatomically and functionally delineate the circuitry that connects sensory representations to specific behavioral outcomes.
  • Second, we are asking how learning transforms these circuits, and how neuromodulators shape and modify them.
  • Third, we are asking how the brain maintains behavioral plasticity, to allow for context dependent behavioral adaptations in response the same sensory stimulus.


We are taking a multi-disciplinary approach—including traditional and CRISPR-based genome editing, molecular, optogenetic, in vivo and ex vivo electrophysiological, and various imaging techniques—to understand how the immune system influences the brain and modulates neural circuits to shape and guide behavioral outputs.

Research Projects

Mapping Sensory Stimuli to Behavioral Output

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 »
The Role of Neuromodulation in Social Learning

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 »
Cognitive Control of Olfactory Learning

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 »