What we do

Our lab studies neuronal plasticity and its links to behaviour in the mouse olfactory system.

Faced with an ever-changing environment, animals must process sensory inputs to produce appropriate behavioural responses. Neuronal plasticity is fundamental to accomplish this but how adaptive control is achieved at the cellular and network level remains poorly defined.

Importantly, the way that circuits, such as those in the early olfactory system, respond and adapt to incoming signals needs to be optimized both for learning (e.g., to discriminate strawberry and banana) and also to assure homeostasis and behavioural stability (e.g., maintaining the ability to detect strawberry smell after temporary anosmia).

We are also fascinated by dopamine (it’s in the olfactory bulb too!), and by neurons capable of the most striking type of plasticity: the ability to undergo adult neurogenesis.

Neuronal Plasticity

The lab’s main aim is to further study the different types of neuronal plasticity, how they combine within individual cells at different stages of their lifetime, and how they impact on network processing as a whole.

To this end, we take an integrated approach to interrogate olfactory circuits at both the cellular and systems level, with a range of cutting-edge (i.e. optogenetics, chemogenetics and calcium imaging) and well-established technologies (i.e. electrophysiology and morphological techniques).


Dopamine and adult neurogenesis

Although dopaminergic neurons are only a minority of brain cells, their impact on behaviour is substantial, and their impairment has been linked to numerous diseases. Recent studies have highlighted an extreme heterogeneity of morphology, physiology and connectivity among this rather small dopaminergic population, raising the question of whether these neurons have anything else in common besides dopamine itself.

To answer this question we are comparing features of the canonical midbrain dopaminergic cells with the relatively understudied group of dopaminergic neurons in the olfactory bulb, some members of which retain the striking ability to regenerate throughout life, aka the most extreme form of structural plasticity.


Behaviour, learning, memory

We are developing fully automated behavioural testing setups to probe performance, learning and memory across multiple sensory modalities (mainly olfaction, but also vision and audition thanks to our collaborators). The goal is to link plasticity phenotypes at the cellular level with overall behavioural outputs.

Thanks to yet more fantastic collaborators, we also have a side interest in how odours can be scary, and how olfactory fear conditioning can be vicariously learned.


“When people ask me which disease we want to cure, I tell them that it is truly the worst of all: ignorance.”

Prof Jerry Simpson, circa 2010

Papers, preprints, datasets

Galliano E, Hahn C, Browne L, Rodriguez Villamayor P , Tufo C, Crespo A and Grubb MS. (2021) Brief sensory deprivation triggers cell type-specific structural and functional plasticity in olfactory bulb neurons. Journal of Neuroscience doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1606-20.202. Full Dataset on KCL repository (doi.org/10.18742/RDM01-757).Cover of the March 10th 2021 issue.

Luppi AI, Newton CC, Folsom L, Galliano E, Romero-Garcia R. (2021) Ten simple rules for aspiring graduate students. PLOS Comp Bio; 17(8), e1009276. Editorial.

Galliano E, Franzoni E, Breton M, Chand AN, Byrne DJ, Murthy VN, Grubb MS. (2018) Embryonic and postnatal neurogenesis produce functionally distinct subclasses of dopaminergic neuron. eLife, 7:e32373 doi: 10.7554/eLife.323. Full Dataset On Dryad (doi.org/10.5061/dryad.b5hg8d6)

Galliano E, Schonewille M, Peter S, Rutteman M, Houtman S, Jaarsma D, Hoebeek FE, De Zeeuw CI (2018) Impact of NMDA Receptor Overexpression on Cerebellar Purkinje Cell Activity and Motor Learning. eNeuro, ENEURO.0270-17.2018.

Chand AN, Galliano E, Chesters RA, Grubb MS (2015) A distinct subtype of dopaminergic interneuron displays inverted structural plasticity at the axon initial segment. J Neuroscience, 35(4):1573-90.

D’Angelo E, Galliano E, De Zeeuw CI. (2015) The olivo-cerebellar system. Frontiers. Editorial.

Galliano E, De Zeeuw CI. (2014) Questioning the cerebellar doctrine. In Progress in Brain Research, Cerebellar Learning Volume, 210:59-77. Book chapter.

Galliano E, Gao Z, Schonewille M, Todorov B, Simons E, Pop A, D’Angelo E, van den Maagdenberg AM, Hoebeek F, De Zeeuw CI. (2013) Silencing the majority of cerebellar granule cells uncovers their essential role in motor learning and consolidation. Cell Reports, Apr 25;3(4):1239-51

Galliano E, Potters JW, Elgersma Y, Wisden W, Kushner SA, De Zeeuw CI, Hoebeek FE (2013) Synaptic transmission and plasticity at inputs to murine cerebellar Purkinje cells are largely dispensable for standard non-motor tasks. J Neuroscience, Jul 31;33(31):12599-618.

Galliano E, Baratella M, Sgritta M, Ruigrok TJH., Haasdijk ED, Hoebeek FE, D‘Angelo E, Jaarsma , De Zeeuw CI. (2013) Anatomical investigation of potential contacts between climbing fibers and cerebellar Golgi cells in the mouse. Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 7:59.

Badura A, Schonewille M, Voges K, Galliano E, Renier N, Gao Z, Witter L, Hoebeek FE, Chedotal A, De Zeeuw CI. (2013) Climbing fiber input shapes reciprocity of Purkinje cell firing. Neuron, May 22;78(4):700-13.

Galliano E, Mazzarello P, D’Angelo E. (2010) Discovery and rediscoveries of Golgi cells. J Physiol. 588(Pt 19):3639-55. Review.

Current and recent funding sources

The Royal Society, Isaac Newton Trust / Wellcome Trust, University of Cambridge, The Icelandic Research Fund (as co-PI), BBSRC,

Cambridge Trust (Li Huang), PDN-Wolfson College (Ailie McWhinnie)

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