A Florida State University researcher has received a five-year, $1.86 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how a little-understood part of the brain affects our sense of smell.
Assistant Professor of Psychology Adam Dewan will lead a study of the dorsal tenia tecta, a brain region that receives input from the olfactory bulb but has no known function. Dewan’s team will investigate this region to find out how it’s connected to other parts of the brain, how neurons within this region respond to odor and its overall contribution to our sense of smell.
WHAT DO THE RESEARCHERS AIM TO FIGURE OUT?
- How the dorsal tenia tecta talks to other parts of the brain. From flowers to pizza, the odors we encounter consist of hundreds or even thousands of individual volatile chemicals. Our brain forms a perceptual impression of this heterogeneous stimulus to allow us to recognize a specific scent. This is a challenging task that requires multiple interconnected brain areas. By understanding how the dorsal tenia tecta is connected to these other regions, Dewan’s team hopes to gain a greater understanding of the network that underlies our sense of smell.
- What odor components make the dorsal tenia tecta excited. We are reliant on our sense of smell to not only detect odors in our environment, but also to identify them, determine their intensity and decide whether we like them or not. By discovering how the dorsal tenia tecta responds to these different features of odor, Dewan’s team will take another step toward deciphering how our brain encodes different smells.
- What job the dorsal tenia tecta has in our smell puzzle. The organization of the dorsal tenia tecta appears to be fundamentally different from other olfactory brain regions. Dewan and his team think that this uniqueness signifies a distinct role for this region in odor perception.
HOW COULD THIS RESEARCH HELP PEOPLE? As the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, there is an intimate link between our sense of smell and well-being. It plays a vital role in our daily lives, influencing our food choices and social interactions and helping us detect danger. Understanding the intricacies of how our brains process odors can have profound implications for our overall health and quality of life. Dewan’s research will take a major step toward answering this question by providing the first in-depth characterization of the dorsal tenia tecta.
WHO’S INVOLVED? Graduate student Samuel Caton and research technician Austin Pauley will play essential roles in this project. Roberto Vincis, assistant professor of biology, and Cecilia Bouaichi, a graduate student in the Vincis Laboratory, are important collaborators.