Olfaction : from Coding to Memory

The objective of our team is to investigate the behavior and brain dynamics associated with the processing and retrieving of a sensory message in a large-scale network. To do so, we take  advantage on some particularities of a specific sensory modality: the olfactory system.

Capitalizing on a broad expertise in the field, our ambition is to point out that the olfactory system should be studied for its own sake but also used as a fertile source to tackle more general neurophysiological questions.

In all our approaches, we always strive to take into consideration important parameters such as the level and nature of the involved cognitive process, the environment of the subjects or the context of the experience, and physiological or internal parameters like the respiratory rhythm, the metabolic status or the level of attention or vigilance.

Human resources
  • 9 CNRS researchers
  • 3 professors or associate professors from Université Lyon 1
  • 5 shared engineers
  • 5 PhD students
Methods and Techniques

Methodological approaches are rich and generally used in combination. Complementary approaches are used both in Human and Rodents:

  • sophisticated behavioral assays (episodic-like memory task, two-alternative odor discrimination task, habituation-cross/habituation task, fear conditioning and odor attention task) that can be coupled to optogenetics, respiration recordings, electrophysiological recordings
  • multi-scale electrophysiological recordings (single cell intra- and extracellular, local field potentials in rodents, human intracerebral EEG)
  • imaging methods (cellular imaging of immediate early gene expression, optical recordings, calcium imaging, fMRI, and µPET imaging)
  • neurogenesis: newborn neurons imaging and adult neurogenesis alteration by SARRP (Small Animal Radiation Research Platform).
Research Project

Our projects are based on 3 main axes:

  1. Cognitive processes and behavior: using original behavioral protocols and devices, we refine the analysis of behavior in order to tackle the questions of olfactory and attentional processes, time encoding in emotional olfactory memory and episodic memory characterization. Our aim is to move toward a more naturalistic approach of cognitive processes and behavior both in humans and animals.
  2. Dynamics, modulation and plasticity of large-scale networks:  how do olfactory areas interact with other brain areas to build large-scale networks underlying olfactory perception, attention and memory? What is the role of oscillatory synchronies in setting up the network? How are these networks shaped by experience and across time? We tackle these questions by combining, in the same paradigms, fine-grain behavioral analysis and various measures of brain activity (fMRI, µPET, LFP, iEEG) or cellular plasticity (neurogenesis, gene expression).
  3. Respiration as a central brain organizer: we study the function of respiration as a fundamental rhythm through which the body influences brain activity and cognitive processes via large-scale network synchronization. Our questions are: is a generalized synchronization of the brain on breathing, as we observed in the rat, observable in Human? How olfactory system and respiration interact to appease brain and body? Does the brain use respiration-based synchronization as a mechanism for cell-assembly formation and functioning?

Nathalie Buonviso -

Emmanuelle Courtiol -