neuroscience of Olfactory system function and motivated behaviors

Wesson laboratory

at the University of Florida

The lab

 

Here in the Wesson Lab we investigate the brain circuitry which allows for sensory-driven motivated behaviors. We specialize on a brain structure referred to as the Tubular Striatum, and in this structure we focus on how odors are processed and integrated within emotional and motivational brain circuitry and how this integration is directed out into brain regions which orchestrate behaviors. This line of questioning provides an ideal platform to test specific hypotheses regarding the neural basis of sensory dysfunction in neurological disorders, including addiction, wherein sensory processing is aberrant. To accomplish these major goals, we utilize a variety of methods ranging from multi-site electrophysiological recordings from defined brain structures in behaving animals simultaneous with optogenetic manipulations, and multisite fiber photometry with biosensors (calcium, dopamine, etc), 2-photon imaging in behaving animals, and custom-designed operant behavioral assays to tease apart cognitive states. We also use machine learning methods to capture relevant neural coding strategies and to identify behavioral motifs which distinguish behaviors.

LAB NEWS


January 2024

Maria Ramirez joins the lab as a PhD candidate! Welcome Maria!


December 2023
Natalie Johnson has accepted an offer to be a tenure track Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Biology at West Chester University in PA. She starts her new position in August 2024. Congratulations Natalie!


November 2023
Sarah Sniffen's NIH NRSA fellowship was recommended for funding by the NIDCD! Congratulations Sarah!


August 2023
Dr. Ziaho Zhang joins the lab as a postdoctoral researcher from Dr. Joost Marier's lab at Wake Forest. Welcome Zihao!


July 2023
PhD student Sarah Sniffen was selected to be a Fellow on the UF Chemical Senses T32 Training Grant. Congratulations Sarah!
 
April 2023
Natalie Johnson wins the coveted Don Tucker Memorial Award for best graduate student presentation at the 2023 Association for Chemoreception Sciences meeting. Congratulations Natalie!

Milayna Kokoska wins honorable mention for best undergraduate student presentation at the 2023 Association for Chemoreception Sciences meeting. Congratulations Milayna!

January 2023
Hillary Cansler's paper on how the frontal cortex integrates with the olfactory system during selective attention to odors is published in Cerebral Cortex.

June 2022
Congratulations to Ash for defending her PhD thesis!

March 2022
Congratulations to Natalie Johnson for receiving an F31 NRSA fellowship from the NIH/NIDCD for her project, "Chemosensory contributions of e-cigarette additives on nicotine use".

November 2021
We're happy to have contributed to the first paper indicating cuasal roles for the islands of Calleja, led by Dr. Minghong Ma, and recently published in Nature Neuroscience. Zhang et al, 2021.

August 2021
Together with our collaborators Drs. Minghong Ma and Marc Fuccillo we are fortunate to have received an NINDS R01 to investigate the role of the islands of Calleja circuitry in grooming behavior.

September 2020
Dan published a Viewpoint in the Journal of Neuroscience arguing for the importance for the olfactory tubercle to be conceptualized as the "tubular striatum" to more appropriately recognize its role in the basal ganglia.

July 2020
Our latest paper on odor valence, including multi-site unit recordings from the OT and PCX, fiber photometry from 2 OT neuron populations, and optogenetics to show behavioral roles for the cells in question, is now out at Cell Reports. Congratulations everyone!

April 2020
Undergraduate student Estelle in 't Zandt is named a 2020 Barry Goldwater Scholar. Congratulations Estelle!

Together with our collaborators Drs. Minghong Ma and Lori Knackstedt we are fortunate to have received a NIDA R01 for an project on the role of the olfactory tubercle in cocaine seeking and taking.

December 2019
Katherine Wright receives a 3yr NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship from the NIH/NIDCD to study the modulation of odor learning by estradiol. Congratulations Katherine!

October 2019
Together with our collaborators Drs. Mariella De Biasi and Minghong Ma we are fortunate to have received a NIDA R01 for an exciting project on the reinforcing properties of e-Cigarette flavorants.

August 2019
Dr. Sang Eun Ryu joins the lab as a postdoctoral researcher from Dr. Chiel Moon's lab at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology's Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department. Welcome Sang Eun!
 
July 2019
Dan becomes a standing member of the Learning, Memory, and Decision Neuroscience (LMDN) NIH study section.

April 2019
Hillary Cansler receives a 3yr NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship from the NIH/NIDCD to study prefrontal cortex control of olfactory selective attention. Congratulations Hillary!
 
Dan receives the Young Investigator Award for Research in Olfaction from AChemS.