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Associate Professor
MD, PhD, Brescia University


Life Sciences Bldg

Phone: (631) 632-3242
Fax: (631) 632-6661

*Visit our website*




Alfredo Fontanini attended the University of Brescia Medical School, Italy and received a PhD in Neuroscience in 2003. After postdoctoral fellowships at Brandeis University from 2002-2008 under the supervision of Drs. Sacha Nelson and Don Katz, he joined the faculty of Stony Brook University, where he is currently Assistant Professor of Neurobiology & Behavior. From 2003-2005 he was a Sloan-Swartz Fellow for Theoretical Neurobiology at Brandeis. He serves as a Reviewer and Review Editor for the Journal of Neurophysiology, Neuroscience and Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience and is a member of the Society for Neuroscience and the Association for Chemoreception Sciences.


In our everyday life sensory perception has a very rich phenomenology: no stimulus evokes the same sensation twice.
Imagine you smell the fragrance of a freshly baked cake; it’s your favorite one, you are craving for sweets and on top of that it’s your birthday. The smell is great and the taste glorious. Now, imagine you are not hungry, or you just got sick, or you are simply in a bad mood. In all these cases you will not perceive the odor and the taste of the cake in the same way as in the first situation.
This is just a simple example of the many ways in which the internal state of an organism can modify the meaning of a stimulus and influence its perception.

Our lab is interested in understanding the neural basis of this perceptual richness. Specifically, we are studying how different internal/cognitive states modulate neural responses to sensory stimuli in awake behaving rats and mice. Our work focuses on the chemical senses. Taste and olfaction, two sensory modalities with a strong ecological bond, are particularly amenable to cognitive modulation in virtue of their natural relationship with emotional, motivational and homeostatic processes.

We study the neural responses to odors and tastes, as well as systems dynamics related to different cognitive states, using multisite multielectrode techniques and in vivo intracellular electrophysiology. Various behavioral protocols and experimental manipulations of the brain are used to perturb in a controlled manner the state of the animal.

  • Publications
  • Laboratory Personnel
    • Taste:
    • A. Fontanini and D.B.Katz. (2005) 7-12 Hz activity in rat gustatory cortex reflects disengagement form a fluid self-administration task. J Neurophysiol 93(5):2832-2840
    • A. Fontanini and D.B.Katz. (2006) State-dependent modulation of time-varying gustatory responses. J. Neurophysiol 96(6): 3183-3193
    • J. Wang, A Fontanini and D.B.Katz (2006) Temporary basolateral amygdala lesions disrupt acquisition of socially transmitted food preferences in rats. Learn. Mem 13(6): 794-800
    • L.M. Jones*, A. Fontanini*, B. Sadacca, P.Miller and D.B. Katz (2007) Natural Stimuli evoke dynamic sequences of states in sensory cortical ensembles. PNAS 104(47):18772-7
      *These authors contributed equally to this work
    • S.E. Grossman, A. Fontanini, J.S. Wieskopf and D.B. Katz (2008) Learning-related plasticity of temporal coding in simultaneously recorded amygdala cortical ensembles. J Neurosci 28(11):2864-2873
    • A. Fontanini*, S.E. Grossman*, D.B. Katz (2008) Taste response dynamics in amygdalar neurons of awake rats. In preparation.
      *These authors contributed equally to this work
    • A. Fontanini and D.B. Katz (2008) Impact of active sensory acquisition on cortical sensory dynamics. In preparation.
    • A. Fontanini and D.B. Katz (2008) Behavioral states, network states and sensory response variability Invited review for J Neurophysiol. In press
    • Fontanini A., Grossman SE, Figueroa JA, Katz DB. (2009) Distinct subtypes of basolateral amygdala taste neurons reflect palatability and reward. J Neurosci. 29(8):2486-95.
    • Olfaction:
    • A. Fontanini, P.F. Spano, J.M. Bower. (2003) Ketamine/xylazine induced slow (<1.5 Hz) oscillations in the rat piriform (olfactory) cortex are functionally correlated with respiration. J Neurosci 23(22):7993-8001  
    • A. Fontanini and J.M. Bower. (2005) Variable coupling between olfactory system activity and respiration in ketamine/xylazine anesthetized rats. J Neurophysiol 93(6): 3573-3581
    • A. Fontanini and J.M. Bower. (2006) Slow-waves in the olfactory system: an olfactory perspective on cortical rhythms. Trends in Neurosciences 29(8): 429-437
    • Pubmed Linked Publications
  • Ke Chen - PhD Student
  • Gulce Dikecligil - PhD Student
  • Dustin Graham -  Postdoctoral Associate
  • Chad Samuelsen - Postdoctoral Associate
  • Martha Stone - Research Technician
  • Roberto Vincis - Postdoctoral Associate