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Immunohistochemical characterization of pathways and projections in the human olfactory system

Psychophysical and neuroimaging research in humans has brought important insights to the central foundations of olfactory perceptual processing and plasticity. By comparison, research examining the organization of the human peripheral olfactory system is woefully sparse. In fact, most of our understanding of the neural circuits related to odor perception are derived from insect and rodent models, such that it remains unknown whether any of the basic principles established in animals are applicable to humans. In new experiments conducted with Dr. Tom Bozza, our collaborator at Northwestern University, we have begun to delineate the wiring and function of sensory inputs in the human olfactory epithelium (OE), olfactory bulb (OB), and cortex, using immunostaining and confocal microscopy of thin tissue sections obtained from human olfactory biopsies and post-mortem samples. The approach will enable us to systematically dissect the anatomy and physiology of the human peripheral olfactory system.