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Biology Seminar - Betty Hong - Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Tuesday, February 14, 2023
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Tuesday, February 14, 2023, 4 pm

Location: Chen 100

Reception to follow

Betty Hong

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience


Title: "Olfaction in Drosophila through the lens of natural odors"


Natural odor space is structured by the biochemical processes of life, which generate characteristic mixtures of monomolecular volatiles in different odor sources. Animal brains interpret these complex natural mixtures and use this information to guide behaviors important for survival. I will describe recent progress in our understanding of how olfactory coding and behavior in the vinegar fly Drosophila reflect the statistical relationships of molecules as they occur in natural odor sources. First, we describe a new form of odor-selective lateral crosstalk between primary olfactory neurons that enables novel sensory transformations of olfactory input driven by odors characteristic of fermentation. We show how the spatiotemporal restructuring of these odor representations by lateral signal flow can support the context-dependent selection of the appropriate behavioral response to the important but complex environmental cue, carbon dioxide. Second, we identified an unexpected degree of structure in third-order olfactory networks in the fly mushroom body and found that neural representations of odors in the fly brain are reformatted in successive stages of olfactory processing to become better organized around odor relationships in natural sources, as compared to their relationship in chemical space. Finally, we provide an example of how using natural odors instead of monomolecular odors to investigate sensory experience-dependent plasticity leads to very different conclusions about the impact of early life odor experience on olfactory function and behavior. Together, these results provide new insights into olfaction and neurobiology that emerge from investigating the system through the lens of natural odors.