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The sense of smell: olfactory circuitry and processing

The olfactory system faces very different challenges from the visual system.  First, chemical space is extremely high dimensional.  Second, odor signals are highly variable and new odors are encountered all the time.  Third odors mix together during natural olfaction and their separation is a difficult statistical problem.    We are exploring how various aspects of the olfactory circuitry are tuned to solving these challenges.  These aspects include the diffuse sensitivity of Olfactory Receptor Neurons (1st olfactory stage), the lateral inhibitory connectivity and cortical feedback in the olfactory bulb (2nd olfactory stage), and the apparently random connectivity from the bulb to the piriform cortex (3rd olfactory stage) accompanied by diffuse inhibitory interactions within the cortex.