Lutz's Research Interests



Everyday humans and especially mice encounter a huge variety of different odors. Sensory information that we consciously perceive is previously filtered with respect to prior experiences as well as attention. But how are relevant sensory information filtered out from a complex sensory environment? For me this is one of the key questions in nowadays neuroscience. It is hypothesized that so called top-down inputs are vital elements of sensory filtering processes within the brain. Accordingly our group is interested in how activity in higher brain centers enables us to perform these complex filtering processes. During my PhD I am investigating the effects of a specific top-down center on early olfactory processing: The anterior olfactory nucleus (AON). The AON is a part of the olfactory cortex where bulbar inputs are integrated into odor percepts. The AON in turn sends massive top-down projections back to the olfactory bulb (OB). In contrast to other top-down centers that affect the olfactory system, there are only a few studies available addressing the functional role of AON top-down projections. Hence, my PhD project addresses two main questions:

1)    How do AON top-down projections influence early sensory processing within the (OB)?
In order to answer this questions I am currently performing electrophysiological and Ca2+ imaging recordings of different neuronal populations in the OB during simultaneous optogenetic and electrical stimulation of AON top-down projections, respectively.

2) What are the behavioral consequences of this top-down modulation?
In the near future I am also planning to perform Ca2+ imaging as well as electrophysiological recordings in combination with behavioral assays (e.g. two-odor discrimination).
With these experiments we hope to decipher the role of AON top-down projections in the context of behavior. Especially the possible involvement of AON top-down projections in odor discrimination will be of great interest. E.g., a recent publication linked AON activity to a decrease in odor sensitivity.  Therefore, I also plan to study the effects of AON top-down activity on odor detection sensitivity.