Photo of Zak, Joseph

Joseph Zak

Assistant Professor, starting January 2022

Biological Sciences

Email:

jdzak@uic.edu

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About

How do past experiences influence future sensory perception? To reliably encode ever changing information about the environment, neurons must modify both their activity profiles and connectivity to accurately interpret complex stimuli. The goal of our research is to answer fundamental questions about the development, connectivity, and dynamics of neural circuits, as they pertain to sensory experience and learning.

To address these questions, we use the olfactory system, or sense of smell, as a model. Mice are capable of performing intricate olfactory-guided behaviors which can then be probed by manipulating the underlying neural circuitry of the system. For example, cortical feedback projections to the olfactory bulb are uniquely positioned at the interface between detection-based processing that is driven by sensory input and analytical processing that occurs in cortical regions of the brain. This arrangement makes these projections an ideal target to study how learning reshapes neuronal activity profiles and connectivity to allow animals to parse sensory scenes.

We use a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates electrophysiological, in vivo imaging, behavioral, and computational techniques to uncover how learned associations modify the connectivity and information coding capacity of neural circuits dedicated to the detection and perception of sensory stimuli.

Selected Publications

(complete list of publications on Google Scholar)

1. Zak JD, Reddy G, Vergassola M, Murthy VN (2020) Antagonistic odor interactions in olfactory sensory neurons are widespread in freely breathing mice. Nature Communications 11:3350

2. Gire DH**, Zak JD**, Bourne JN, Goodson N, Schoppa NE (2019) Balancing extrasynaptic excitation and synaptic inhibition within olfactory bulb glomeruli. eNeuro 6(4)0247-19.2019 **equal contribution

3. Albeanu DF, Provost AC, Agarwal P, Soucy E, Zak JD, Murthy VN (2018) Olfactory marker protein (OMP) regulates formation and refinement of the olfactory glomerular map. Nature Communications 9:5073

4. Zak JD, Grimaud J, Li R-C, Lin C-C, Murthy VN (2018) Calcium-activated chloride channels clamp odor-evoked spike activity in olfactory receptor neurons. Scientific Reports 8:10600

5. Reddy G**, Zak JD**, Vergassola M, Murthy VN (2018) Antagonism in olfactory receptor neurons and its implications for the perception of odor mixtures. eLife 7:e35958 **equal contribution

6. Zak JD, Whitesell JD, Schoppa NE (2015) Metabotropic glutamate receptors promote disinhibition of olfactory bulb glomeruli that scales with input strength. Journal of Neurophysiology 113(6):1907-20

7. Gire DH, Franks KM, Zak JD, Tanaka KF, Whitesell JD, Mulligan AA, Hen R, Schoppa NE (2012) Mitral cells of the olfactory bulb are mainly excited through a multi-step signaling path. Journal of Neuroscience 32:2964-75

8. Zhang Z-W, Zak JD, Liu H (2010) MeCP2 is required for normal development of GABAergic circuits in the thalamus. Journal of Neurophysiology 103(5):2470-81

Education

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology, Harvard University 2015-2021
Ph.D. in Neuroscience, University of Colorado, 2015
B.S. in Neuroscience, University of Michigan, 2008