Photo of Leslie Kay
Leslie M. Kay Office: BPSB 331 Phone: (773) 702-6174 Email Interests:

Roles of context in perception; olfactory neurophysiology; olfaction and cognition; sensorimotor integration; oscillatory dynamics; computational neuroscience; behavioral neuroscience


I received my BA in Liberal Arts from St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico and then worked for the original GenBank project at Los Alamos National Laboratory. I was a programmer/analyst in business applications for a number of years in the mid- to late eighties, and then returned to graduate school at UC Berkeley to complete my PhD in Biophysics working with Walter J. Freeman III. I did my postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Gilles Laurent at the California Institute of Technology, where I studied olfactory bulb mitral cell responses to changes in odor context. I have been at The University of Chicago since 2000, and my laboratory studies the effects of behavioral context on olfactory and limbic system neurophysiology. We focus on the mechanisms and functions associated with intra- and inter-regional oscillatory cooperativity primarily in the rat olfactory and limbic systems.


  • Biological Psychology (PSYC 20300/30300)
  • Mind (SOSC 141, 142, 143)
  • Mind, Brain and Meaning (LING 26520/PSYC 26520/PHIL 26520)
  • Animal Models in the Study of Cognition (PSYC 28910)
  • Foundations of Neuroscience: Historical Perspective (PSYC 37250)


Recent Research / Recent Publications

Selected Publications

Sheriff, A., Pandolfi, G., Nguyen, V., and Kay, L.M. (2021) Long-range respiratory and theta oscillation networks depend on spatial sensory context. Journal of Neuroscience, 41(48): 9957–9970.

He, R., Dukes, T.C. and Kay, L.M. (2020) Transfer of odor perception from the retronasal to the orthonasal pathway, Chemical Senses, 46, bjaa074

Heck, D.H., Kozma, R. and Kay, L.M. (2019) The rhythm of memory: how breathing shapes memory function. Journal of Neurophysiology, 122(2): 563-571.

Frederick, D.E., Tacopina, S.A., Vujovic, M., Brown, A., Mehta, N., and Kay, L.M. (2017) Task-dependent behavioral dynamics make the case for temporal integration in multiple strategies during odor processing. Journal of Neuroscience, 37(16):4416–4426.

Osinski, B and Kay, L.M. (2016) Granule cell excitability mediates gamma and beta oscillations in a model of the dendrodendritic microcircuit. Journal of Neurophysiology, 116(2): 522-539.

Frederick, D.E., Vujovic, M., Brown, A., Mehta, N., and Kay, L.M. (2016) Gamma and beta oscillations define a sequence of neurocognitive modes present in odor processing, J Neuroscience, 36(29): 7750-7767.

Kay, L.M. (2015) Olfactory system oscillations across phyla. Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 31: 141-147.

Rojas-Líbano, D., Frederick, D.E., Egaña, J.I. and Kay, L.M.  (2014) The olfactory bulb theta rhythm follows all frequencies of diaphragmatic respiration in the freely behaving rat. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8:214. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00214

Rojas-Líbano, D. and Kay, L.M. (2012) Interplay between odorant sorptiveness and sniffing behavior in olfactory learning and perception. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(44):15577-89.

Frederick, D. E., Barlas, L., Ievins, A., & Kay, L.M. (2009). A critical test of the overlap hypothesis for odor mixture perception. Behavioral Neuroscience, 123(2): 430-437.

Kay, L.M., Beshel, J., Brea, J., Martin, C., Rojas-Líbano, D. & Kopell, N. (2009) Olfactory oscillations: the what, how and what for, Trends in Neurosciences, 32(4): 207-214.

Kay, L.M. and Sherman, S.M. (2006) Argument for an olfactory thalamus. Trends in Neurosciences, 30(2):47-53.