The Datta lab studies how information from the outside world is detected, encoded in the brain, and transformed into meaningful behavioral outputs. We address this problem by characterizing the olfactory system, the sensory modality used by most animals to interact with their environment. Here, we describe a novel molecular and circuit mechanism that underlies odor perception, one that may be specialized for the detecting and processing of odors with innate meaning. We also describe recent experiments using a combination of volumetric population imaging in awake mice and behavioral analysis to explore odor codes in piriform cortex, the main cortical center devoted to olfaction in the mammalian brain; these experiments identify an invariant representation for odor space in cortex, thereby suggesting mechanisms through which the olfactory system can link chemically-related odors to similar behaviors and perceptual qualities both within and across individuals.
Thesis Defense Seminar