• Title Associate Professor of Biology
  • Education PhD, Simon Fraser University
  • Phone 617-358-6902
  • Area of Interest pheromones and innate social behaviors; novel imaging tools for behaving animals; pathophysiology of injury
  • CV

Current Research

Our lab focuses on the neural circuits underlying perception and behavior in olfaction. Smell is notorious for its intimate links to memory and emotion, and in the animal world, chemical cues are powerful triggers of innate social behaviors such as aggression and courtship. Our overarching goal is to establish the circuit architecture and neural computations that map chemical cues onto both stereotyped and learned, flexible behaviors.

In the vomeronasal system, pheromonal signals couple to evolutionarily conserved limbic circuits. The hardwired and concise nature of these pathways provides a powerful window on the links between sensation and behavior. We use genetic tools to identify and record from the sensory circuits recruited by social chemosignals, testing both their anatomical organization and how they are shaped by experience to calibrate behaviors towards different social partners. To further reveal the neural basis of naturalistic behaviors, we are also developing new tools for large-scale imaging of activity in freely moving mice.

In cortical networks, experience-dependent plasticity lends flexibility to sensory-guided behaviors. Despite the noisy and incomplete nature of real-world sensory data, internal sensory percepts remain remarkably stable. To this end, the brain continually updates the way that it parses sensory information into meaningful behavioral categories. Here, our goal is to understand how this perceptual stability arises from the internal organization and dynamic behavior of cortical networks.

Finally, we are using sensory systems as a tool to understand the basis of pathophysiology induced by traumatic brain injury. Even mild TBI often leads to long-term neuropathology and cognitive deficits, but the biological mechanisms set into motion immediately injury remain poorly understood. We use high-resolution intracranial imaging in rodents to help establish how injury alters cortical activity patterns and cerebral blood flow, with the goal of identifying biological processes and time windows for targeted therapeutic interventions.

Selected Publications

  • Witkowski ED, Gao Y, Gavsyuk EF, Maor I, DeWalt GJ, Eldred WD, Mizrahi A, Davison IG (2019) Rapid changes in synaptic strength after mild traumatic brain injury. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 13: 166.
  • Besnard A, Gao Y, TaeWoo Kim M, Twarkowski H, Reed AK, Langberg T, Feng W, Xu X, Saur D, Zweifel LS, Davison IG, Sahay A (2019) Dorsolateral septum somatostatin interneurons gate mobility to calibrate context-specific behavioral fear responses. Nature Neuroscience 22: 436-446.
  • Gao Y, Budlong C, Durlacher E, Davison IG (2017) Neural mechanisms of social learning in the female mouse. Elife 16 (6): pii: e25421.
  • Vinograd A, Fuchs-Shlomai Y, Stern M, Mukherjee D, Gao Y, Citri A, Davison I, Mizrahi A (2017) Functional plasticity of odor representations during motherhood. Cell Rep. 21 (2): 351-365.
  • Yang R, Weber TD, Witkowski ED, Davison IG, Mertz J (2017) Neuronal imaging with ultrahigh dynamic range multiphoton microscopy. Sci Rep. 7 (1): 5817.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Courses Taught:

  • BI520/NE520 Sensory Neurobiology
  • BI741/NE741 Neural Systems I: Functional Circuit Analysis

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