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Follow your nose: Tracking the brain’s smell circuits

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Smell is one of our most powerful and most complex senses. And yet scientists remain unsure how odors trigger memories or warn us of dangers. But thanks to researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), we are starting to get a better picture of this process. CSHL Associate Professor Florin Albeanu, Professor Alexei Koulakov, and Professor Anthony Zador have used a new barcoding technology called BARseq to track, for the first time, tens of thousands of neurons in the brain’s olfactory cortex.

To help illustrate their findings, Albeanu and Koulakov teamed with artist Gil Costa. He used their research to create a colorful cartoon map of the brain’s olfactory cortex. Now we’re bringing this cartoon to life using retro-video-game-style infographics. This short film shows how odor information might travel through your brain when you smell something. Press play to join our 8-bit friend Odie the Odor Guide on a fun-filled tour of your brain’s smell circuits.

Read the related story: Mapping the path from smell to perception