Faculty Profiles

Pete Buston

Ian Davison

Assistant Professor of Biology

PhD, Simon Fraser University, 2003
Areas of Interest: cortical sensory processing; learning and information storage in neural circuits

(617) 358-6902

Current Research

Our lab studies the neural basis of sensory perception. How does the brain take millions of discrete pieces of raw sensory information, streaming in from primary receptor neurons, and synthesize them into a single unified percept? This process is the foundation of our sensory experience, and our aim is to describe the underlying neural circuit computations.

We study this problem in the olfactory system for several reasons. First, smell is highly synthetic. Odors are immediately experienced as a single percept, despite the fact that natural odors often contain dozens of chemical components, and are detected by hundreds of different types of odorant receptors. Second, the olfactory circuit is compact, reducing the path over which information flow needs to be traced: only two synapses separate receptors in the nose from integrative processing in cortical regions. Finally, olfactory associations are notoriously strong and rapid, offering a promising window for understanding how experience is written into the brain's internal structure.

To better understand how complex sensory inputs are recognized and stored by networks of neurons, we measure and manipulate the activity of neural populations with both electrophysiological and optical approaches. This is complemented by quantitative behavior, reporting the animal's sensory experience, and by precise measures of circuit connectivity with intracellular physiology in vitro. Ultimately we hope to use olfaction to help reveal some of the brain's general mechanisms for flexible sensory processing, pattern recognition, and neural information storage.

Courses Taught

  • BI520/NE520 Sensory Neurobiology

Selected Publications

  • Davison IG, Ehlers MD (2011). Neural circuit mechanisms for pattern detection and feature combination in olfactory cortex. Neuron 70: 82-94
  • Kennedy MJ, Davison IG, Robinson CG, Ehlers MD (2010). Syntaxin-4 defines a domain foractivity-dependent exocytosis in dendritic spines. Cell 141: 524-535
  • Arenkiel BR, Klein ME, Davison IG, Katz LC, Ehlers MD (2008). Genetic control of neuronal activity in mice conditionally expressing TRPV1. Nature Methods 5(4): 299-302.
  • Arenkiel BR, Peca J, Davison IG, Feliciano C, Deisseroth K, Augustine GJ, Ehlers MD, Feng G (2007) In vivo light-induced activation of neuroal circuitry in transgenic mice expressing channelrhodopsin-2. Neuron 54: 205-18.
  • Davison IG, Katz LC (2007). Sparse and selective odor coding by mitral/tufted neurons in the main olfactory bulb. J. Neurosci. 24 (3): 8057-8067.
  • Davison IG, Boyd JD, Delaney KR (2004). Dopamine inhibits mitral/tufted to granule cell synapses in the frog olfactory bulb. J. Neurosci. 24 (3): 8057-8067.