Illig Lab: Research in Neuroscience

September 27, 2016 / By: Kurt R. Illig, PH.D.

Professional Interests

My research focuses on understanding how sensory information is associated with behavioral significance. Currently, I examine how odors and their behavioral meanings are represented in the brain, and whether these representations change with experience. Because of the close link between olfaction and memory, these studies hold the promise of uncovering mechanisms important for learning. Moreover, because these brain areas can be affected by drugs of abuse, we may gain insight into preventing or treating addictive behaviors. Using an experimental approach that combines genetic, physiological, anatomical, and behavioral methods, my long-term goal is to understand the interactions between neuromodulatory systems and cortical structures in sensory coding, learning and behavior.



(Student authors are designated with a *.)

  • Klipec WD, Rasmus KC, O'Neill C, Cao J, Lawyer CR*, Ostertag E, Bachtell RK, Cooper DC and Illig KR (2016) Loss of the trpc4 gene is associated with a selective reduction in cocaine reward and reduced spontaneous ventral tegmental area dopamine neuronal activity. Behavioural Brain Research, 306: 117-127.
  • Illig KR (2015) Techniques and technology to revise content delivery and model critical thinking in the neuroscience classroom. Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, 13: A160-A165.
  • Garske AK*, Lawyer CR*, Peterson BM* and Illig KR (2013) Adolescent changes in dopamine D1 receptor expression in orbitofrontal cortex and piriform cortex accompany an associative learning deficit. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56191. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056191.
  • Kay RB, Meyer EAA, Illig KR and Brunjes PC (2011) Spatial distribution of neural activity in the anterior olfactory nucleus evoked by odor and electrical stimulation. The Journal of Comparative Neurology,519: 277-289.
  • Illig KR and Eudy J* (2009) Contralateral projections of the rat anterior olfactory nucleus. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 512: 115-123.
  • Illig KR (2007) Developmental changes in odor-evoked activity in rat piriform cortex. Neuroscience, 145: 370-376.
  • Meyer, E.A., Illig, K.R. and Brunjes, P.C. (2006) Differences in chemo- and cytoarchitectural features within pars principalis of the rat anterior olfactory nucleus suggest functional specialization. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 498: 786-795.
  • Illig, K.R. (2005) Projections from orbitofrontal cortex to piriform cortex in the rat suggest a modulatory role in olfactory information processing. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 488: 224-231.
  • Brunjes, P.C., Illig, K.R. and Meyer, E.A. (2005) A field guide to the anterior olfactory nucleus (cortex). Brain Research Reviews, 50: 305-335 (Review).
  • Mirich, J.M., Illig, K.R. and Brunjes, P.C. (2004) Experience-dependent activation of extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) in the olfactory bulb. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 479: 234-241.
  • Illig, K.R. and Haberly, L.B. (2003) Odor-evoked activity is spatially distributed in piriform cortex. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 457: 361-373.
  • Ekstrand, J.J., Domroese, M.E., Feig, S.L., Illig, K.R. and Haberly, L.B. (2001) Immunocytochemical analysis of basket cells in rat piriform cortex. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 434: 308-328.
  • Illig, K.R., Danilov, Y.P., Ahmad, A., Kim, C.B.Y. and Spear, P.D. (2000) Functional plasticity in extrastriate visual cortex following neonatal visual cortex damage and monocular enucleation. Brain Research, 882: 241-250.
  • Johnson, D.M.G., Illig, K.R., Behan, M. and Haberly, L.B. (2000) New features of connectivity in piriform cortex visualized by intracellular injection of pyramidal cells suggest that “primary” olfactory cortex functions like “association” cortex in other sensory systems. The Journal of Neuroscience 20: 6974-6982.
  • Illig, K.R., King, V.R. and Spear, P.D. (1998) Monocular enucleation prevents retinal ganglion cell loss following early visual cortex lesions in cats. Visual Neuroscience 15: 1097-1105.


  • Illig, K.R. and Wilson, D.A. (2009) Olfactory cortex: Comparative anatomy. In: Kaas, J.H. (ed.) Evolutionary Neuroscience. New York: Elsevier.
  • Brunjes, P.C. and Illig, K.R. (2009) The anterior olfactory nucleus. In: Binder, Marc D. et al. (eds.) Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. New York: Springer.
  • Illig, K.R. and Wilson, D.A. (2008) Olfactory cortex: Comparative anatomy. In: Squire, L. et al. (eds.) The new Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, pp101-106. New York: Elsevier.


  • National Institutes of Health (2007-2009): The anterior olfactory nucleus.
  • National Institutes of Health (2004-2008): Spatial aspects of coding in piriform cortex.
  • National Institutes of Health (2000-2002): Information processing in piriform cortex.

Student Researchers


  • Jennifer Eudy Sokolowski (now an MD/PhD student at the University of Virginia Medical School)
  • Brittni Peterson (now a neuroscience graduate student at the University of Minnesota)
  • Anna Zimmerman Garske
  • Nicholas Hafften
  • Melanie Kok (now a neuroscience graduate student at McMaster University)
  • Rachel Kay (now a neuroscience graduate student at the University of Virginia)
  • Steven Quinn (now a medical student at Northwestern University)