Alan Gelperin
Systems and Circuits
Systems and Circuits

Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience.


Areas of Research: Biological, computational and electronic olfaction; learning and memory.
A75 Neuroscience

Research Focus

My research interests focus in the following four areas:

A. Comparative cognition and learning

Animals are programmed to solve certain problems by learning predictive relationships among stimuli and storing information about those predictive relationships in a form that is stable for periods ranging from one to 7x105 hours. Remarkably complex associative learning has evolved in animals with compact neural circuits highly suited to genetic and biophysical analysis. A central question is the extent to which learning and other cognitive abilities of animals with compact nervous systems overlap or exceed those of vertebrates. A related question is to what extent are complex cognitive capacities present in animals with limited numbers of neurons and short lifespans, such as C. elegans and Drosophila.

B. Biological olfaction

The olfactory systems of animals are specialized for pattern recognition and storage of odor-mediated neural patterns with their associated valence, often requiring only a single exposure for memory formation. This single odor exposure can result in a long-term memory of the odor pattern and its associated consequence, which may be negative or positive. Odor pattern recognition and odor learning are widespread, including among members of genetic model systems such as mice, zebrafish, Drosophila and C. elegans.  Dissection of the olfactory information processing circuits is particularly advanced in these genetic model systems, providing functional templates for comparisons to other related species, including humans.

C. Machine olfaction

There are many computational models of olfactory information processing, particularly those created in collaboration with David Tank and John Hopfield. A natural consequence of these modeling activities is the attempt to create a functioning artificial olfactory system with a complex and extensive set of odor sensors feeding a pattern recognition circuit capable of learning and storing odor patterns. We have explored the use of DNA-coated semiconducting carbon nanotubes as a potential source of a large and diverse sensor platform, with encouraging results.

D. Evolving new approaches to teaching cellular neuroscience

PNI is fortunate to have a core neuroscience teaching laboratory containing eight research-quality stations equipped with optical and electronic equipment for performing experiments on living nerve tissue. We are constantly improving existing laboratory exercises and testing new exercises to allow students to most effectively explore the cellular and network properties of single neurons, synaptically connected neurons and networks of neurons, using living preparations. Students are then able to design and carry out a two week independent laboratory investigation of their own design.

Selected Publications

  • Liscia, A.M.; Solari, P.; Gibbons, S.T.; Gelperin, A.; Stoffolano, J.G. (2012) Effect of serotonin on the supercontractile muscles of the blowfly crop. Journal of Insect Physiology, 58, 356-366.
  • Khamis, S.; Johnson, A.T.C.; Preti, G.; Kwak, J.; Gelperin, A. (2012) DNA-decorated carbon nanotube-based FETs as ultrasensitive chemical sensors: Discrimination of homologs, structural and optical isomers. AIP Advances, 2, 022110.
  • Reisert, J.; Gelperin, A. (2012) When does more give less in the olfactory system? Physiology News, 86, 18-21.
  • Goldsmith, B.; Mitala Jr., J.J.; Lerner, M.; Josue, J.; Abaffy, T.; Baybert, T.H.; Khamis, S.; Jones, R.; Rhodes, P.; Sligar, S.; Luetje, C.W.; Gelperin, A.; Brand, J.; Discher, B.; Johnson, A.T.C. (2011) Biomimetic chemical sensors using nanoelectronic read out of olfactory receptor binding to odorants. ACS Nano, 5, 5408-5416.
  • Gelperin, A. (2010) Human olfactory perception. In: Hermann, A. (Ed.) The Chemistry and Biology of Volatiles. John Wiley Publishing Co. 253-290.
  • Johnson, A. T. C.; Kahmis, S. M.; Preti, G.; Kwak, J. and Gelperin, A. (2010) DNA-coated nanosensors for breath analysis. IEEE Sensor Journal, 10, 159-166.
  • McQuade, L. E.; Ma, J.; Lowe, G.; Ghatpande, A.; Gelperin, A. and Lippard, S. J. (2010) Visualization of nitric oxide production in the mouse main olfactory bulb by a cell-trappable copper(II) fluorescent probe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 107, 8525-8530.
  • Gelperin, A. and Ghatpande, A. (2009) Neural basis of olfactory perception. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1170, 277-285.
  • Ghatpande, A. S. and Gelperin, A. (2009) Presynaptic muscarinic receptors enhance glutamate release at the mitral/tufted to granule cell dendrodendritic synapse in the rat main olfactory bulb. Journal of Neurophysiology, 101, 2052-2061.
  • Preti, G.; Thaler, E.; Hanson, C. W.; Troy, M.; Eades, J. and Gelperin, A. (2009) Volatile compounds characteristic of sinus-related bacteria and infected sinus mucus: analysis by solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography B: Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences, 877, 2011-2018.
  • Gelperin, A. and Johnson, A. T. C. (2008) Nanotube-Based Sensor Arrays for Clinical Breath Analysis. Journal of Breath Research, 2, 037015.
  • Gelperin, A. (2008) Neural computations with mammalian infochemicals. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 34, 928-942.
  • Lowe, G.; Buerk, D. G.; Ma, J. and Gelperin, A. (2008) Tonic and stimulus-evoked nitric oxide production in the mouse olfactory bulb. Neuroscience, 153, 842-850.