at the University of Florida
neuroscience of Olfactory system function and motivated behaviors
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.
PhD student Sarah Sniffen was selected to be a Fellow on the UF Chemical Senses T32 Training Grant. Congratulations Sarah!
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 Natalie!
Hillary Cansler's paper on how the frontal cortex integrates with the olfactory system during selective attention to odors is published in Cerebral Cortex.
Congratulations to Ash for defending her PhD thesis!
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".
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Katherine Wright receives a 3yr NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship from the NIH/NIDCD to study the modulation of odor learning by estradiol. Congratulations Katherine!
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.
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!
Dan becomes a standing member of the Learning, Memory, and Decision Neuroscience (LMDN) NIH study section.
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.