Class of '62 Auditorium (John Morgan Building), 3620 Hamilton Walk
Department of Neurology
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the
Human Olfactory System But Were Afraid to Smell
An essential function of the brain is to encode and interpret the behavioral salience of stimuli encountered in the environment. Throughout much of the animal kingdom, odors are essential for directing animals toward a wide array of salient stimuli, including food, family, friends, and mates. It follows that the olfactory system should share intimate anatomical overlap with limbic brain regions involved in the control of emotion, decision making, and goal-directed behavior. Research in our lab combines sensory psychophysics with functional MRI, multivariate pattern-based analysis, intracranial EEG recordings, and, more recently, anatomical and histological methods, to investigate olfactory neurobiology in the human animal. This presentation will include a brief overview of our recent studies examining olfactory perceptual learning, valence coding, and associative conditioning, with focus on elemental processing of complex natural food smells. Finally, I will discuss how the mere act of odor sampling, i.e., sniffing, can profoundly shape network dynamics and oscillations in the human brain, with relevance for memory and behavior.