CORDIS - EU research results

A circuit perspective on olfaction – how learning and context shape the propagation of information between brain areas

Project description

Unveiling the brain dynamics related to smell

The brain processes information through complex neural networks, adapts through learning and memory mechanisms, and integrates new knowledge with existing frameworks. The interplay of various brain regions and processes allows us to perceive, understand and navigate the world around us. Funded by the European Research Council, the olfACTION project focuses on sensory areas in the brain responsible for processing information from olfaction, the sense of smell. The aim is to understand whether learning-induced changes in sensory areas occur independently or if they are driven by signals from higher brain areas associated with learning and memory. Researchers will explore neural activity and propagation of information through electrophysiological recordings, optogenetic manipulations and anatomical assessments.


Sensory information is initially processed in specialized brain areas but only integration with previously acquired knowledge provides meaningful information for flexible action selection. This requires the propagation of information from sensory to association areas, where sensory information is put into context and memories are acquired. The entorhinal-hippocampal network is of particular importance for information integration and memory formation. Recent findings about learning-induced changes in sensory areas raise the question whether they occur independently or reflect altered top-down influence of the abundant feedback projections from associative areas.
While learning- and context-related changes of activity have been described for individual brain areas, it is largely unknown how learning affects propagation of information between areas. The proposed project aims to dissect the mechanisms by which learning and context shape propagation of sensory information from the olfactory system to the entorhinal-hippocampal network in mice. Olfaction provides unique features to address this aim: a short pathway from sensory to association areas, a discrete time frame for information sampling by respiration, and the capability of mice to quickly learn odor-guided tasks.
The main hypothesis of this project is that timing and synchrony of neuronal activity are key parameters in determining the propagation of information between brain areas and that they are affected by learning and context through feedback projections from association areas. This hypothesis will be tested by simultaneous electrophysiological recordings in olfactory bulb, piriform cortex, lateral entorhinal cortex, and hippocampus during learning of odor-reward associations, combined with optogenetic manipulations and anatomical assessment of connectivity between these areas.
This project will reveal the mechanisms by which learning- and context change the propagation of information between brain areas.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 500 000,00
Martinistrasse 52
20251 Hamburg

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Hamburg Hamburg Hamburg
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 500 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)