Emmanuelle Courtiol, Ph.D.
Some of the key questions of modern neurobiology are how our brain perceives our environment, which brain structures are involved, and how activity within defined neural circuits contributes to appropriately guide behavior in response to this environment. While receiving my PhD, I was interested in understanding how olfactory perception is related to the way the environment is sampled. I have received extensive training in electrophysiology and studied the impact of sniffing on both the activity of the first olfactory brain relay (i.e, the olfactory bulb) and odor discrimination in rats. For my post-doc, I wanted to explore the role of higher order olfactory areas in olfactory perception, with the aim to gradually turn toward the study of more complex cognitive functions such as attention to odors. I joined Dr. Wilson’s lab at the Nathan Kline Institute in 2013. My current research project explores whether and how one particular area, the thalamus, is involved in odor-guided behavior in the rats. Due to the specific organization of the olfactory pathway (i.e., no direct thalamic relay between sensory neurons and primary cortex), the olfactory thalamus was often overlooked in understanding olfactory function. I propose to test whether the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus is a specific actor involved in higher order olfactory processes. To study the implication of the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus in olfactory processing, I am using different techniques ranging from behavior, electrophysiological recordings in vivo, and optogenetics.