We use our sense of smell to determine whether a new environment is safe or dangerous, whether we are aware of it or not. In fact, much of the animal kingdom relies on this ability for survival and reproduction. Researchers at the University of Rochester’s Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience are uncovering new insights into how the olfactory sensory system aids in threat assessment and have discovered neurons that "learn" if a smell is a threat. "We are trying to understand how animals interact with smell and how that influences their behavior in threatening social and non-social contexts," said Julian Meeks, PhD, principal investigator of the Chemosensation and Social Learning Laboratory. "Our recent research gives us valuable tools to use in our future work and connects specific sets of neurons in our olfactory system to the memory of threatening smells."