Mark Andrew Stopfer, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Section on Sensory Coding and Neural Ensembles


NIHBC 35A - PNRC II 3E-623


Research Topics

All animals need to know what is going on in the world around them; thus, brain mechanisms have evolved to gather and organize sensory information in order to build transient and sometimes enduring internal representations of the environment. Using relatively simple animals and focusing primarily on olfaction and gustation, we combine electrophysiological, anatomical, behavioral, and other techniques to examine the ways in which intact neural circuits, driven by sensory stimuli, process information. In the past year, we investigated mechanisms, including transient oscillatory synchronization and slow temporal firing patterns of ensembles of neurons, that underlie information coding and decoding and how spontaneous activity arises in a sensory system, how it is regulated, and how innate sensory preferences are determined. Our work reveals basic mechanisms by which sensory information is transformed, stabilized, and compared as it makes its way through the nervous system.


Dr. Mark Stopfer received his B.S. and Ph.D. from Yale University where, with Dr. Tom Carew, he applied behavioral and electrophysiological techniques to study mechanisms underlying simple forms of learning. He then joined Dr. Gilles Laurent's laboratory at the California Institute of Technology where he examined the information processing properties that emerge within ensembles of neurons, focusing particularly upon oscillatory and synchronous neural activity. Dr. Stopfer came to NIH in 2002. His laboratory studies neural ensemble mechanisms underlying sensory coding in relatively simple animals.

Selected Publications

  1. Kim B, Haney S, Milan AP, Joshi S, Aldworth Z, Rulkov N, Kim AT, Bazhenov M, Stopfer MA. Olfactory receptor neurons generate multiple response motifs, increasing coding space dimensionality. Elife. 2023;12.
  2. Reiter S, Campillo Rodriguez C, Sun K, Stopfer M. Spatiotemporal Coding of Individual Chemicals by the Gustatory System. J Neurosci. 2015;35(35):12309-21.
  3. Ray S, Sun K, Stopfer M. Innate attraction and aversion to odors in locusts. PLoS One. 2023;18(7):e0284641.
  4. Ray S, Aldworth ZN, Stopfer MA. Feedback inhibition and its control in an insect olfactory circuit. Elife. 2020;9.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Monday, November 13, 2023