A fundamental property of the nervous system in all species is the transformation of sensory stimulation into neural activity, leading to endocrine and behavioral changes. The olfactory system stands out due to its molecular complexity, detection capacity and the modulation of innate behaviors. However, little is known of how this system detects, processes and interprets chemosignals from the environment. In this project, we intend to study the molecular logic of odorant detection, through the identification of molecular receptors in the sensory organ. To achieve this goal, we will identify receptors involved in the detection of odors which elicit a specific behavior, namely, innate fear behavior induced by kairomone stimuli. Several fundamental questions about the olfactory system will be explored in this project: Is there more than one receptor for each odor? Are similar odors detected by the same or similar receptors? Are odors that elicit different behaviors detected by distinct classes of receptors? Such questions will help in the understanding of how patterns of receptor activity lead to brain processing of sensory information to appropriately induce a specific behavior. Such knowledge may eventually lead to the development of new drugs and therapies to modulate/treat behavioral diseases in humans.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: