Thomas Bozza, PhD

Associate Professor of Neurobiology, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Bozza’s laboratory focuses on the genetics and physiology of olfactory function. Olfaction allows animals to perceive the molecular structure of volatile chemicals in the environment. In many species, olfaction mediates critical behaviors such as food location, individual recognition, sexual behavior and predator avoidance. In humans, disturbances in olfactory function are associated with neurological diseases, and result in a significant decrease in quality of life.

Olfaction is mediated by odorant receptors which are encoded by the largest family of genes in the mammalian genome. Mice, for example, have more than 1000 odorant receptor genes. From this repertoire, each olfactory sensory neuron in the nose expresses a single odorant receptor which determines the functional properties of the neuron. Odorant receptors also play a role in axon guidance; sensory neurons that express the same receptor send convergent axonal projections to defined glomeruli in the olfactory bulb. This organization effectively maps the odorant receptor gene repertoire onto the surface of the brain.

The Bozza lab uses a combination of mouse genetics, functional imaging and electrophysiology to investigate how the receptor map forms, how the organization of glomeruli relates to the structure of chemical stimuli, and how genetically defined populations of sensory neurons contribute to the perception of chemical structure.

Contact Information:

Office: Pancoe 2-119
Phone: 847-467-2870
Fax: 847-491-5211
Email: bozza [at] northwestern [dot] edu