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Alfredo Fontanini

Alfredo Fontanini, MD, PhD, Brescia University

Associate Professor 

Life Sciences Bldg

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


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 Associate 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
    • T.C. Griffen, M.S. Haley, A. Fontanini and A. Maffei (2017) Rapid plasticity of visually evoked responses in rat monocular visual cortex. PLoS One. 12(9):e0184618.
    • C. Samuelsen and A. Fontanini (2017) Processing of intraoral olfactory and gustatory signals in the gustatory cortex of awake rats. J Neurosci. 37(2):244-257
    • R. Vincis and A. Fontanini (2016) A gustocentric perspective to understanding primary sensory corticles. Curr Opin Neurobiol 40:118-124
    • R. Vincis and A. Fontanini (2016) Associative learning changes cross-modal representations in the gustatory cortex. eLife Aug 30;5. pii e16420
    • L. Mazzucato, A. Fontanini and G. LaCamera (2016) Strimuli reduce the dimensionality of cortical activity. Front Syst Neurosci  2016 Feb 17; 10:11  
    • M. Haley, A. Fontanini* and A. Maffei* (2016) Laminar-and cell type-specific amygdalar inputs in rat primary cortex. J Neurosci 36(9):2623-37 (*Corresponding and equally contributing authors)
    • H. Lui and A. Fontanini (2015) State Department of Chemosensory Coding in the Gustatory Thalamus (VPMpcz) of Alert Rats. J Neurosci 35(47):15479-15491
    • L.Mazzucato, A. Fontanini* and G. LaCamera* (2015) Dynamics of multistable states during on-going and evoked cortical activity. J Neurosci 35(21):8214-8231 (*Corresponding and equally contributing authors)
    • Kusumoto-Yoshida, H. Liu, B.T. Chen, A. Fontanini* and A. Bonci* (2015) A central role for the insular cortex in mediating conditioned responses to anticipatory cues. PNAS 112(4): 1190-1195 (*Corresponding authors)
    • M.P.H.Gardner and A. Fontanini (2014) Encoding and tracking of outcome-specific expectancy in the gustatory cortex of alert rats. J. Neurosci 34(39):13000-13017
    • C. Samuelson, M.P.H.Gardner and A. Fontanini (2013)Thalamic contribution to cortical processing of taste and expectation. J Neurosci 33(5):1815-1822
    • A. Jezzini*, L. Mazzucato*, G. La Camera and A. Fontanini (2013) Processing of hedonic and chemoscensory features of taste in medical prefrontal and insular networks. J Neurosci 33(48):18966-18978 (*Equally contributing authors)
    • C. Samuelson*, M.P.H Gardner* and A. Fontanini (2012) Effects of cue-triggered expectation on cortical processing of taste. Neuron 74(2):410-422 (*Equally contributing authors)
    • A Maffei and A. Fontanini (2009) Network homeostasis: a matter of coordination. Curr Opin Neurbiol 19: 1-6
    • Pubmed Linked Publications
  • Luca Mazzucato - Research Assistant Profressor in collaboration with Dr. G. LaCamera
  • Roberto Vincis - Postdoctorate Associate
  • Lindsey Czarnecki - Postdoctorate Associate
  • Martha Stone - Research Specialist in collaboration with Dr. A. Maffei
  • Gulce Naz Dikecligil - PhD Student
  • Ke Chen - PhD Student