Research Dr. Gottfried's lab uses an integrative multidisciplinary approach to understand the molecular, cellular, systems, and behavioral foundations of the sense of smell, with a particular focus on the human olfactory system. By combining psychophysical and behavioral testing, functional imaging techniques, human intracranial EEG recordings, immunohistochemical assays, and “inverse translational” mouse models, our overarching goal is to leverage the many unique features of the olfactory system as a hub around which to bridge molecules to mind, and health to disease. Some of the key spectacular features of the sense of smell that make it ideal as a model system of brain function are listed here:
- The anatomy and connectivity of the olfactory system are relatively simple, making it highly tractable for investigating brain physiology and function.
- The essential overlap between olfactory pathways and “limbic” networks involved in memory and emotion means that odors can be used as a robust probe to dissect behavior.
- The olfactory system is arguably the most genetically tractable of the sensory systems in mammals, optimizing efforts to define basic principles of neural circuits and networks.
- The presence of olfactory sensory neurons in the nasal epithelium allows minimally invasive access to the principal neural constituents that initiate perceptions of smells.
- The human sense of smell is impaired in many neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases, often prior to the onset of overt symptoms and signs.
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