Two of the most fundamental questions of sensory neuroscience are: 1) how is stimulus information represented by neuronal activity? and 2) what features of this activity are read out to guide behavior? The first question has been the subject of a large body of work across different sensory modalities. The second question remains a significant challenge, since one needs to establish a causal link between neuronal activity and behavior.
In olfaction, it has been proposed that information about odors is encoded in spatial distribution of receptor activation and the next level mitral/tufted cells, as well as in their relative timing and synchrony. However, the role of different features of neural activity in guiding behavior remains unknown. Using mouse olfaction as a model system, I will present our work on developing both technological and conceptual approaches to study sensory coding by perturbing neural activity at different levels of information processing during sensory driven behavioral tasks. We will first ask the questions about psychophysical limits of the readability of different features of the neural code, and, second, how to quantify their behavioral relevance.