Nathan Urban, Ph.D.

  • Professor and Vice Chair, Co-Director, CNBC, Vice Provost for Special Projects
  • Department of Neurobiology

Education & Training

  • BS Neuroscience, Math and Philosophy-University of Pittsburgh 1991
  • BA Math and Philosophy-Oxford University 1993
  • PhD Neuroscience-University of Pittsburgh 1998

Research Categories

Research Interests

Neuronal Reliability: What is Noise? 
Neurons are unreliable. That is, neurons or populations of neurons that receive identical inputs many times over, do not respond identically time after time. Are biological devices just intrinsically unreliable? or are there advantages to this variability? What are the mechanisms of this variability and why is it enhanced in the brains of people with autism and also in mice with genetic mutations that mirror those seen in some patients with autism? 

Olfactory Plasticity: Are you Experienced? 
The relatively simple and highly stereotyped circuitry of early stages of the olfactory system make it an ideal system in which to analyze experience-dependent plasticity. We are analyzing how the connectivity and function of olfactory bulb circuits are influenced by changes to an animal's odor environment and determining whether these effects of experience are restricted to specific periods of development.

Olfactory Navigation: Smelling your way
Animals have a remarkable ability to navigate using odor cues. Whether its scent dogs tracking a lost child or pocket rats finding landmines, the olfactory navigation many abilities of animals far outstrip any technological solutions developed by humans. As part of an multi-PI NSF-funded project we are trying to determine the algorithms and mechanisms used by animals to solve olfactory navigation problems. By coupling newly developed methods for analyzing the behavior of mice, flies and other species, with clever approaches to monitoring turbulent flow of odors, we will identify the cues used by animals performing these tasks and also understand how these cues are integrated by brain networks. This project has its own web site at 

Representative Publications

Geramita MA, Burton SD, Urban NN. Distinct lateral inhibitory circuits drive

parallel processing of sensory information in the mammalian olfactory bulb.

eLife. 2016; 5. PubMed [journal] PMID: 27351103, PMCID: PMC4972542.


 Yu Y, Burton SD, Tripathy SJ, Urban NN. Postnatal development attunes olfactory

bulb mitral cells to high-frequency signaling. Journal of neurophysiology. 2015;

114(5):2830-42. PubMed [journal] PMID: 26354312, PMCID: PMC4737413.


Burton SD, Urban NN. Rapid Feedforward Inhibition and Asynchronous Excitation

Regulate Granule Cell Activity in the Mammalian Main Olfactory Bulb. The Journal

of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2015;

35(42):14103-22. PubMed [journal] PMID: 26490853, PMCID: PMC4683680.


Zhou P, Burton SD, Snyder AC, Smith MA, Urban NN, Kass RE. Establishing a

Statistical Link between Network Oscillations and Neural Synchrony. PLoS

computational biology. 2015; 11(10):e1004549. PubMed [journal] PMID: 26465621,

PMCID: PMC4605746.


Tripathy SJ, Burton SD, Geramita M, Gerkin RC, Urban NN. Brain-wide analysis of

electrophysiological diversity yields novel categorization of mammalian neuron

types. Journal of neurophysiology. 2015; 113(10):3474-89. PubMed [journal] PMID:

25810482, PMCID: PMC4455486.


Padmanabhan K, Urban NN. Disrupting information coding via block of

4-AP-sensitive potassium channels. Journal of neurophysiology. 2014;

112(5):1054-66. PubMed [journal] PMID: 24899672, PMCID: PMC4122725.


Burton SD, Urban NN. Greater excitability and firing irregularity of tufted cells

underlies distinct afferent-evoked activity of olfactory bulb mitral and tufted

cells. The Journal of physiology. 2014; 592(10):2097-118. PubMed [journal] PMID:

24614745, PMCID: PMC4227897.


Tripathy SJ, Savitskaya J, Burton SD, Urban NN, Gerkin RC. NeuroElectro: a window

to the world's neuron electrophysiology data. Frontiers in neuroinformatics.

2014; 8:40. PubMed [journal] PMID: 24808858, PMCID: PMC4010726.


Gerkin RC, Tripathy SJ, Urban NN. Origins of correlated spiking in the mammalian

olfactory bulb. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United

States of America. 2013; 110(42):17083-8. PubMed [journal] PMID: 24082089, PMCID:



Arthur JG, Burton SD, Ermentrout GB. Stimulus features, resetting curves, and the

dependence on adaptation. Journal of computational neuroscience. 2013;

34(3):505-20. NIHMSID: NIHMS610758 PubMed [journal] PMID: 23192247, PMCID:



Tripathy SJ, Padmanabhan K, Gerkin RC, Urban NN. Intermediate intrinsic diversity

enhances neural population coding. Proceedings of the National Academy of

Sciences of the United States of America. 2013; 110(20):8248-53. PubMed [journal]

PMID: 23630284, PMCID: PMC3657795.


Zhou P, Burton SD, Urban NN, Ermentrout GB. Impact of neuronal heterogeneity on

correlated colored noise-induced synchronization. Frontiers in computational

neuroscience. 2013; 7:113. PubMed [journal] PMID: 23970864, PMCID: PMC3748396.


 Burton SD, Ermentrout GB, Urban NN. Intrinsic heterogeneity in oscillatory

dynamics limits correlation-induced neural synchronization. Journal of

neurophysiology. 2012; 108(8):2115-33. PubMed [journal] PMID: 22815400, PMCID:



Hovis KR, Ramnath R, Dahlen JE, Romanova AL, LaRocca G, Bier ME, Urban NN.

Activity regulates functional connectivity from the vomeronasal organ to the

accessory olfactory bulb. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of

the Society for Neuroscience. 2012; 32(23):7907-16. NIHMSID: NIHMS383641 PubMed

[journal] PMID: 22674266, PMCID: PMC3483887.


Full List of Publications