Mathematical Biology Seminar

Matt Wachowiak
Dept. of Physiology and Brain Institute, University of Utah
3:05PM, Wednesday, December 8, 2010
LCB 225
Seeing what the nose tells the brain: active sensing and olfactory coding in the awake animal

Abstract: We are interested in how olfactory information is represented and processed during behavior. This seminar will focus on understanding olfaction in the context of active sensing - in particular, on the importance of odor sampling behavior - sniffing - in shaping odor representations and processing. Sniffing - like other active sampling behaviors such as whisking or licking - imposes a temporal structure on sensory inputs to the brain and we have found that changes in sniffing behavior can transform both temporal and identity codes for odors even at the level of sensory neurons. In addition, sniffing - like visual saccades - reflects directed attention towards a particular sensory target, likely engaging neuromodulatory centers that can shape early olfactory processing. Using a combination of approaches including awake imaging, electrophysiology, optogenetics and behavioral analyses we are investigating these bottom-up as well as top-down pathways by which sensory codes are actively shaped by the behaving animal.