Olfactory Sensory Perception and the Brain
Sensory perception is shaped by internal factors such as memory, expectations, and motivation. How and where in the brain this shaping occurs, however, is largely unknown. Research in the olfactory system—the brain circuitry underlying the sense of smell—has shown that these internal factors affect sensory signals at a startlingly early stage of processing, even at the very first synaptic connection between nose and brain.
Thomas Cleland’s lab studies this learning and memory-dependent process both behaviorally and mechanistically at the level of neural circuits. The interactions between olfactory and more central brain regions that merge these internal factors with incoming sensory information seem to rely on carefully timed neuronal signals governed by a common oscillatory clock. This clock changes frequency in response to task demands and other factors and reflects when and how the sensory and the top-down information streams interact. By studying the mechanisms of these interactions, Cleland’s lab wants to understand the construction of our internal representations of the world at a level that can contribute to resolving clinical problems of misrepresentation and delusion— characteristic of schizophrenia and attachment disorders. NIH Grant Number: R01DC014367