Chemical encoding in a small brain
Olfactory inputs to the brain are organized into distinct sensory coding channels, each defined by its corresponding odorant receptor (OR) protein. Natural odors almost always activate many ORs, and a fundamental challenge for olfaction is to understand the functional logic by which olfactory inputs are integrated in the brain. The Drosophila olfactory system shares a similar overall circuit organization to its vertebrate counterpart, but with significantly reduced numerical complexity, making it a useful system for investigating the logic of chemical coding. In the first part of this talk, I will discuss our recent discovery of a novel subnetwork of stimulus-selective lateral interactions between primary olfactory receptor neurons that can dramatically reshape the spatial and temporal structure of odor representations at the first stage of olfactory processing. In the second part of this talk, I will discuss our work combining functional imaging with new insights from the connectome to investigate the structure of odor representations in the insect mushroom body, a major brain region mediating learning and other adaptive olfactory behaviors.
Elizabeth (Betty) Hong conducted her graduate work in molecular and cellular neuroscience in the lab of Michael Greenberg at Children’s Hospital Boston, where she developed genetic models in mice to test the functions of neuronal activity-regulated gene expression in synaptic development, with a particular focus on the maturation of inhibitory circuitry. As a postdoc with Rachel Wilson at Harvard Medical School, Betty worked on the synaptic and circuit mechanisms underlying early stages of olfactory processing in the fruit fly Drosophila. In 2015, she joined the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, as an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and a faculty affiliate of the Chen Institute for Neuroscience.