The function of the neural circuitry of the olfactory bulb

Rationale: The task faced by the olfactory system is one of pattern recognition; the olfactory system has to distinguish between and recognise a multitude of different activity patterns generated by odours binding to subsets of olfactory receptors. Pattern recognition is an increasingly relevant field of artificial intelligence; learning how biology has solved this problem is of general interest. The first brain area involved in this task is the olfactory bulb, this brain region is also particularly sensitive to neurodegenerative disease; for example, olfactory deficits appear up to five years before any memory related impairments in Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding how the olfactory bulb functions will provide insight into how the brain solves an important problem, pattern recognition but will also pave the way to a better understanding of how neural circuits are disrupted in neurodegenerative disease.

Plan of work and impact of our studies: Our experiments are designed to explore how the neural circuitry of the olfactory bulb operates. To enable this we use transgenic mice that allow precise optical control of the input to the olfactory bulb and cutting-edge physiological techniques to measure activity within the neural circuit. 

We have 2 key aims:

  1. map the circuit connections between the inputs to the olfactory bulb and the output neurons; and
  2. elucidate how this circuitry represents or codes different patterns of olfactory stimuli and what mechanisms are used to distinguish between closely related patterns. 

Animal welfare: Mice will be routinely monitored throughout all aspects of the project to ensure minimal pain, distress or suffering. All experimental procedures will be carried out under non-recovery anaesthesia, therefore minimising animal distress, pain and suffering.

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