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Matt Wachowiak, PhD
Active Sensing and Odor Coding Imaged in the Awake, Behaving Animal
Associate Professor, University of Utah School of Medicine and The Brain Institute of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, VA 24016
Dr. Wachowiak’s research focuses on how olfactory information is represented and processed during behavior. This seminar will address our current understanding of olfaction in the context of active sensing, particularly the importance of odor-sampling behavior—sniffing—in shaping odor representations and processing. Sniffing, like other active sampling behaviors such as whisking or licking, imposes a temporal structure on sensory inputs to the brain, and Dr. Wachowiak’s research team has found that changes in sniffing behavior can transform both temporal and identity codes for odors even at the level of sensory neurons. In addition, sniffing, like directed brief eye movements, reflects directed attention toward a particular sensory target, likely engaging neuromodulatory centers that can shape the earliest stages of olfactory processing. Using a combination of approaches—including optical imaging of neural activity in the awake brain, electrophysiology, optogenetics, and behavioral analyses—the researchers are investigating these “bottom-up” as well as “top-down” pathways by which sensory codes are actively shaped in the behaving animal.
About the Speaker:
Matt Wachowiak, PhD, received his BS in zoology and neuroscience from Duke University in 1990, and his PhD in neuroscience from the University of Florida in 1996. He joined the faculty of the Department of Biology at Boston University in 2002 and became an associate professor in 2008. In 2010, he joined The Brain Institute at the University of Utah, where he is now a Utah Science, Technology, and Research Initiative Professor of Physiology, Brain and Behavior. Dr. Wachowiak’s work focuses on odor coding and processing in rodents, with an emphasis on understanding how olfaction works in the behaving animal.