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What’s that smell? Neuroscientists are figuring it out

Florin Albeanu and Alexei Koulakov
Associate Professor Florin Albeanu and Professor Alexei Koulakov in the lab

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Associate Professor Florin Albeanu and Professor Alexei Koulakov have received the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Transformative Research Award for an innovative neuroscience research project on the olfactory system, one of the basic senses that is still quite mysterious.

The project will study how the brain interprets smell, an aspect of neuronal processing. Together, Albeanu and Koulakov are building a general framework that will help standardize the study of olfactory receptors and how they broadcast odor-related information brain-wide. By gathering data in the Albeanu lab and applying mathematical methods used in artificial intelligence in the Koulakov lab, they hope to be able to predict olfactory “rules” based on the chemical structure of the odor.

“This collaboration is a natural fit. We are both interested in understanding how olfaction works,” said Albeanu. Both researchers are excited fill the gap in our knowledge of the brain by employing newly available DNA barcode sequencing and machine learning tools. “The reason why this premise is interesting is because it’s one of the basic senses. This is the 21st century, and we still don’t understand its basic principles,” Koulakov said.

The NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award provides funding for innovative research that is considered “high-risk” but has the potential to create or overturn fundamental paradigms of science.

Written By: Sara Roncero-Menendez, Communications Associate | roncero@cshl.edu | 516-367-8455