Andreas Schaefer group

Neurophysiology of behaviour

Understanding how complex behaviour emerges from the properties of molecules, cells and ensembles of cells is one of the key challenges in neuroscience. We try to tackle this question employing the olfactory system of mice as a model system.

To understand how smells are processed we modify specific selected brain areas - in particular the olfactory bulb - using transgenic mice, pharmacological tools or targeted virus injections. We then probe how these specific modifications alter the neural networks and the resulting cellular function and physiology in vivo and in vitro. Ultimately, we perform quantitative behavioural tasks in such modified mice.

Combining these genetic, physiological and behavioural techniques with computational modelling approaches we aim to elucidate the cellular basis of olfactory behaviour and ultimately more general complex behaviours.

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(A) Scheme of the olfactory system: olfactory receptor neurons in the nose project to mitral cells in the olfactory bulb that in turn project to a variety of brain areas. (B) Odor discrimination in mice is fast but depends on stimulus similarity (adapted from Abraham et al 2004). (C) Ablating the AMPA receptor subunit GluR-B in the forebrain improves odor learning/discrimination (C1, from Shimshek et al 2005) and increases inhibition in the olfactory bulb (C2, whole-cell recording in vivo, adapted from Abraham et al, 2010).

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