Navigating within an odor plume is a complex task due to unpredictable changes in odor concentration. The algorithms used by organisms to navigate the odor plume remain mysterious and how the brain solves this complex sensorimotor task key to escaping, mating and eating is unknown (1). The problem is challenging because it requires parallel monitoring of: 1) brain activity in multiple brain regions in the freely moving animal, 2) odor plume dynamics, 3) sniffing and 4) animal motion. While optical imaging is an attractive solution, imaging neural activity in multiple brain regions in the freely moving animal is currently impossible with either commercial or custom miniscopes (2). Members of our Odor Plume Neurophotonics (OPeN) interdisciplinary team developed a novel two photon fiber-coupled microscope for 3D imaging of brain activity in the freely moving mouse under funding from an NIH BRAIN U01 and an NSF NCS:FOUNDATIONS grant (3)(Bright, Gibson, Gopinath and Restrepo) and quantified realistic odor environments in the laboratory to explore algorithms used for odor-guided navigation under funding by an NSF Ideas Lab ?Cracking the Olfactory Code? (Crimaldi)(4). Here, we leverage the extensive expertise of the team to crack the circuit basis for odor plume navigation. We will develop a multi-site miniature 3-photon fiber coupled microscope (3P-FCM) to record neuronal activity in four brain sites in two planes of view. In addition, OPeN will develop a portable photoionization (PID) sensor to detect the odorant concentration at the nostril as the animal navigates the odor plume. Finally, OPeN team members will develop a Bayesian analysis method to decode odor plume navigation from neural activity. The OPeN advisory board includes faculty from universities such as Cornell University and the University College of London, and will include two Directors of NSF NeuroNex Hubs. Here we ask for funds for one year of post-baccalaureate training for Mr. Jos Riguero, who recently graduated from the University of Colorado Denver with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with an emphasis in neuroscience. Jos was a student in our NIH ENDURE BRAiN program and is keenly interested in Ph.D. graduate education in neuroscience. The one year post-back training will strengthen Mr. Riguero's competitiveness as an applicant for graduate programs in neuroscience and will provide him with professional training to further help him be a solid neuroscience Ph.D. student.
The recent development of novel methods to record neural activity in large populations of neurons in diverse brain areas has made it evident that a key aspect of understanding brain function is studying the participation of distributed brain circuits during naturalistic complex behaviors. Currently there is a limited ability to record from large numbers of neurons in multiple brain regions in a freely behaving animal. In addition, analytical tools to study complex behaviors is nascent. This proposal will make an important contribution to the understanding of brain function by critically using newly developed miniature microscopes and analytical methods to evaluate circuit activity in multiple brain areas in odor plume navigation, a well-characterized naturalistic behavior.