AChemS Career Networking Seminar Series


Maternal odor guides infant neurobehavioral responses to help organize the world
Regina Sullivan, Ph.D and Diane Rekow, Ph.D
May 26, 2022 | 4:00 PM ET

Maternal odor is important for modulating infant behaviors in both children and rodents. Drs. Sullivan and Rekow’s research has been defining the how maternal odor can help an infant make sense of ambiguous stimuli and gate neurobehavioral responses to specific stimuli. Both laboratories use behavior and neuroscience to tease apart maternal odor influences on infant behavior and cognition, although Dr. Rekow’s research highlights its ecological significance in human infants, while Dr. Sullivan’s research capitalizes on rodents to define mechanisms. This co-presentation emphasizes the importance of bi-directional translation across species to better inform typical and atypical child development.

“Neurobiology of Maternal Odor Control Over Infant: Rodent model to define mechanisms”
Regina Sullivan, Ph.D.
Emotional Brain Institute, Nathan Kline Institute, Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Neuroscience Institute, New York University Langone Medical Center

Altricial infants attach to their caregiver and express prosocial behavior to receive the nurturing and protection necessary for survival. Once the attachment is learned, that caregiver’s odor can gate processing of environmental threats and enhance or blunt sensory processing in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, via dopaminergic circuits and systemic stress hormone modulation.

“Unraveling odor’s influence on face categorization in human infants”
Diane Rekow, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral researcher
Center for Smell, Taste and Feeding Behavior,
Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, Dijon, France

In the first months of life, the sense of smell is more developed and reliable than sight, providing the infant with a rich olfactory environment in a blurry world. The underlying hypothesis of this work is that a meaningful odor cue, the mother’s body odor, is able to support the neural development of visual perception of social cues, such as faces. Using scalp EEG, I measure the influence of maternal odor on face categorization in infants between 4 and 12 month olds and reveal a developmental trade-off between the senses to disambiguate the environment.


The AChemS Mentoring and Networking Committee invites you to submit proposals to present in an on-going virtual seminar series targeted at facilitating scientific exchange, career development and networking. Early Career Applicants investigating the chemical senses in academic, industry, and clinical settings are all encouraged to apply.

A junior and senior investigator will be paired up to present on their shared research interests. Pre and post seminar mentoring, such as seminar preparation and shared lab meetings will be encouraged to facilitate network development.

This seminar series will occur in a virtual Zoom room on the fourth Thursday of each month starting in January 2021. The seminars will start at alternating times: 11AM ET and 4PM ET to allow members in Europe and Asia to join. A recording of the seminar will be available on the AChemS website for all participants to view for up to 30 days. In addition to live seminars, ACHEMS MEMBERS may view any past seminar recording for no charge by emailing AChemS Executive Office. Each talk will be approximately 20 minutes, leaving time for 10 minutes of questions. There will be two talks per seminar: one from a senior and one from a junior researcher.

Junior investigators will receive an award that includes a monetary prize of $500 generously sponsored by Firmenich, the world’s largest privately-owned fragrance and taste company. Attendees to the Seminar Series can request a certificate of attendance detailing the sessions that they partake in.

Nomination or self-nomination from AChemS members are welcome. Waiver requests to the membership fees are considered on an individual basis and should not represent the only factor not to apply. Please complete the application form and include a C.V., a paragraph summary of current and future research plans and a brief description of the presentation topic (120 words).

The Mentoring and Networking Committee will make a decision on applications beginning in mid January and notify speakers.

Please address any questions to: Dr. Valentina Parma, Mentoring and Networking Committee Program Chair