Olfactory memory and behavior (Zebrafish Neurobiology)

Our sense of smell is remarkable. For example, just a whiff of a familiar scent can trigger vivid recollections - whether they be joyous memories of our childhood or difficult memories of traumatic experiences. But smells also influence our behavior more directly. The scent of delicious food can literally turn our heads (as long as we are hungry) while the smell of spoiled food makes us instinctively recoil. Our research tries to understand how the nervous system processes smells and how that leads to specific behaviors. To do this, we are investigating the brains of small, transparent zebrafish, in which we study neuronal information processing at multiple scales, from synapses to whole brain networks. We study how information is transformed across different parts of the brain, such as areas that handle sensory information, form associations, and control movement. We use a combination of imaging, optogenetics, electrophysiology, genetics, behavioral approaches, and computational methods to observe, manipulate, and make sense of the activity of brain cells as the fish react to different smells in their environment. Our ultimate goal is to understand how past experience, internal states, and environmental context change the way the different parts of the brain work together to process sensory information and influence behavior.

Selected Publications


  • Carlos Gabriel Aguilar Perez (PhD Student)
  • Dr. Thomas Frank (Group Leader)
  • Bethan Jenkins (PhD Student)
  • Daniel Leube (Undergraduate Researcher; co-supervised with Prof. Viola Priesemann)
  • Dr. Thomas Offner (Postdoctoral Researcher)
  • Xiaohan Xie (Undergraduate Researcher)