FY2018 Annual Report

Sensory and Behavioural Neuroscience Unit
Assistant Professor Izumi Fukunaga


                 From left: front Aliya Adefuin, Yu-Pei Huang, Saeko Hedo; back Cary Zhang, Sebastian Reinig, Izumi Fukunaga, Sander Lindeman.                        Photo credit Andrew Scott


In the 2ndyear of operation, Sensory and Behavioural Sensory Unit is now equipped with essential equipment and a strong team comprising three post-doctoral researchers, a PhD student, a technician and an administrator.

We saw the first lab publication, which describes how the behavioural context – what we do at a particular moment – changes how the first olfactory area of the brain (the olfactory bulb) operates. From this study, we learned that the changes that take place can be (1) transient and implemented rapidly, and (2) selective – the most informative neurons for the task at hand are enhanced. These observations will form the basis for the next steps that we hope to investigate in the coming year(s) – a mechanistic understanding.

In June 2018, we hosted a workshop, inviting internationally recognised scientists working on a wide range of olfactory research (see far below). We heard talks and poster presentations about fly, mouse and human olfaction, as well as how marine organisms interact with plastics in the ocean through their sense of smell. It was an excellent and inspiring opportunity to think about how the brain processes olfactory information, from different perspectives. 

Aside from the scientific developments, we take individual professional development seriously: this year, we introduced the lab library (complete with a home-made bookend – see picture below), which will grow to accommodate a variety of topics. Post-docs in our unit also get teaching opportunities by giving guest lectures on special topics, as part of the Sensory Systems Course at the Graduate School. 

The goal for the coming year is to learn more about how circuits in the olfactory system implement useful functions – and for everyone in the lab to make their own discoveries!





1. Staff

  • Dr. Izumi Fukunaga, Principal Investigator
  • Dr. Cary Zhang, Researcher
  • Dr. Sander Lindeman, Researcher
  • Dr. Sebastian Reinig, Researcher
  • Aliya Adefuin, Graduate Student
  • Yu-Pei Huang, Technical Staff
  • Saeko Hedo, Administrative Assistant

2. Collaborations

2.1 Internal collaborators

Dr Keiko Kono (Membranology Unit)

2.2 External collaborators

Dr Hiroaki Matsunami (Duke University)

3. Activities and Findings

3.1 Task-dependent tuning of the olfactory bulb

This study examines if fine-tuning olfactory representations in the first smell centre of the brain (the olfactory bulb) occurs when mice perform a variety of olfactory tasks, such as olfactory discrimination tasks differing on difficulty. We found that it does, and it occurs in a way that amplifies a small set of neurons that are informative for the task at hand. As a side, the first author of this work, for Anzhelika Koldaeva, who was an intern and subsequently a rotation student in the unit, this was one of the first first neuroscience projects since switching from mathematics. 

The is reported in the OIST news, as well as in an interview for eLife.

Figure1: Task-dependent modulation of the olfactory bulb output. Two-photon functional imaging was obtained from the principal neurons (mitral and tufted cells) of the olfactory bulb, while mice switched from fine olfactory discrimination to coarse olfactory discrimination. 


4. Publications

4.1 Journals

  • Koldaeva A, Schaefer AT, Fukunaga I. (2019). Rapid task-dependent tuning of the mouse olfactory bulb. eLife; 8:e43558
  • Jordan R, Fukunaga I, Kollo M, Schaefer AT. (2018) Active Sampling State Dynamically Enhances Olfactory Bulb Odor Representation. Neuron; 98(6):1214-28.e5.

5. Intellectual Property Rights and Other Specific Achievements

Nothing to report

6. Meetings and Events

6.1 Workshop hosted

  • Date: June 11-14, 2018
  • Venue: OIST Seaside House
  • Organisers: Hokto Kazama (RIKEN BSI, Japan), Christoph Kirst (Rockefeller University, USA), Venkatesh Murthy (Harvard University, USA), Izumi Fukunaga (OIST, Japan)
  • Title: Olfaction: the stimulus space, neural representation and behavioural relevance
  • Speakers: Sandeep Robert Datta (Harvard Medical School, USA), Thierry Emonet (Yale University, USA), Veronica Egger (University of Regensburg, Germany), Kevin Franks (Duke University, USA), Izumi Fukunaga (OIST, Japan), Elizabeth Hong (California Institute of Technology, USA), Takeshi Imai (Kyushu University, Japan), Hokto Kazama (RIKEN BSI, Japan), Alexei Koulakov, (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, USA), Venkatesh Murthy (Harvard University, USA), Gabrielle Nevitt (University of California, Davis, USA), Shannon Olsson (National Centre for Biological Sciences, India), Gonzalo Otazu (New York Institute of Technology, USA), Dmitry Rinberg (New York University, USA), Andreas Schaefer (The Francis Crick Institute, UK), Kazushige Touhara (The University of Tokyo, Japan), Christina Zelano (NorthWestern University, USA)

6.2 Seminar Title in Full

  • Date: January 23, 2019
  • Venue: OIST Campus Lab1
  • Speaker: Dr. Cindy Poo (Champalimaud Institute, Portugal)
  • Title: Conjunctive code for odors and space in posterior piriform cortex

7. Other

Lab library in development..