Sensation, perception and behavior in vertebrate olfaction

Smell is an ancient and complex sense essential for food detection, prey and predator recognition, reproduction and other intraspecies communication. Tens of thousands of different chemicals can be detected and distinguished by the olfactory system. Several olfactory receptor gene families, both small and large, contribute to the detection of odors. The basic logic of olfactory perception involves labeled line (one receptor - one odor - one behavior) as well as combinatorial coding (one receptor - several odors and one odor - several receptors). Monogenic expression and axonal convergence serve to generate a receptotopic map in the olfactory bulb.

To understand the perception of odors, it is essential to identify the various receptor repertoires, reveal the ligand spectra of individual olfactory receptors, analyse the modification of the odor response by the circuitry of the olfactory bulb and higher brain centers, and examine the generation of behavior by these neural circuits. We employ (mostly) the vertebrate model system zebrafish to study these questions, using an array of molecularbiological, genetic, physiological and behavioral methods.