Kevin Franks, PhD, PI
We use the rodent olfactory system to study how the brain forms internal representations of the external world. We analyze small, functional neural circuits in the olfactory bulb and piriform cortex. We record and image odor-evoked responses in vivo, employ optogenetic circuit mapping in vitro, and use olfactory behavioral assays.
Our research is driven by the idea that the nervous systems evolved to solve specific computational problems using relatively simple, small neural circuits, and that these circuits form motifs that are combined and repeated throughout the nervous system.
To understand how these circuits are assembled, how they transform neural information, and how they ultimately guide behavior, we study the representation of odor in the rodent primary olfactory, or piriform cortex. The piriform cortex is a relatively simple, evolutionary ancient, three-layered cortex. Yet, despite its simplicity, circuitry within piriform cortex is thought to support many of the computations required for odor recognition and discrimination, including gain control, pattern separation, and pattern completion. In addition to revealing its role in odor perception, a mechanistic understanding of how this simple circuit solves these common computational problems can reveal general principles of brain function.