Scents and sensitivity: experience-dependent plasticity in olfactory circuits

Sensory systems must be plastic – they need to be able to adapt so they can continue to extract useful information from an ever-changing world. In the mammalian olfactory bulb this adaptability is taken to extreme levels, with cellular mechanisms of plasticity being accompanied, in certain populations, by whole-neuron replacement via adult neurogenesis. My group’s focus is on investigating activity-dependent plastic changes in olfactory bulb circuits, including in adult-born neurons. We do this by combining physiologically-relevant manipulations of sensory experience with quantitative readouts of neuronal structure and function in ex vivo and in vivo preparations. In this way, we aim to understand how plastic changes at the cellular level can allow networks to maintain their information-processing abilities, even in the face of considerable external disruption.