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Christopher J. Potter, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Christopher J. Potter, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Neuroscience

Research Interests: Neural circuits required for drosophila olfaction


Dr. Chris Potter is an assistant professor of neuroscience in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research focuses on how the brain processes olfactory information. His team is engaged in characterizing the anatomy, development and function of neurons required for olfactory behaviors in the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster.

Dr. Potter received his undergraduate degree with honors in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his Ph.D. from Yale University. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. Dr. Potter joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2010.

His work has been recognized with various awards, including a research grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. more


  • Associate Professor of Neuroscience

Departments / Divisions



  • B.A., University of California (California) (1996)
  • Ph.D., Yale University (Connecticut) (2002)

Additional Training

Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 2010, Biology

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Potter’s research focuses on how sensory information from the external environment is received, processed and interpreted by the brain. His team is interested in how neurons and circuits function in the brain to achieve a common goal (olfaction). They also develop, use and build molecular and genetic tools that allow them to directly alter neuronal functions in a living organism. They then determine how their neuronal manipulations have altered the behavior of an animal.

The research in Dr. Potter’s lab is focused primarily on the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster. His team developed the "Q-system," a repressible binary expression system, that when used in combination with the GAL4 system, allows for genetic silencing or activation of small neuronal populations. They use this system to label and manipulate small populations of neurons and assay their effects on olfactory behaviors.

In addition, Potter and his team developed a high-throughput computer controlled olfactory attraction and repulsion behavioral assay. In this assay, hundreds of flies are tracked simultaneously as they respond to different odorants at many carefully controlled odorant concentrations. From such analyses, they can effectively link precisely defined neuronal populations to their respective odorant behaviors.

Current projects in the lab involve:

  1. characterizing the function of the projection neurons in relaying odorant information to higher brain centers;
  2. characterizing the adult fly’s olfactory system in eliciting stereotyped attractive or repulsive behaviors to discrete odorants;
  3. identifying and characterizing the neuronal circuitry required for innate olfactory responses to environmental stimuli; and
  4. developing genetic tools for linking neurons to their function.

Lab Website: Christopher Potter Lab

Selected Publications

Liang L, Li Y, Potter CJ, Yizhar O, Deisseroth K, Tsien RW, Luo L. "GABAergic projection neurons route selective olfactory inputs to specific higher-order neurons." Neuron. 2013 Sep 4;79(5):917-31. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.06.014.

Subedi A, Macurak M, Gee ST, Monge E, Goll MG, Potter CJ, Parsons MJ, Halpern ME. "Adoption of the Q transcriptional regulatory system for zebrafish transgenesis." Methods. 2014 Apr 1;66(3):433-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2013.06.012. Epub 2013 Jun 20.

Gao XJ, Potter CJ, Gohl DM, Silies M, Katsov AY, Clandinin TR, Luo L. "Specific kinematics and motor-related neurons for aversive chemotaxis in Drosophila." Curr Biol. 2013 Jul 8;23(13):1163-72. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.05.008. Epub 2013 Jun 13.

Wei X, Potter CJ, Luo L, Shen K. "Controlling gene expression with the Q repressible binary expression system in Caenorhabditis elegans." Nat Methods. 2012 Mar 11;9(4):391-5. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.1929.

Sweeney LB, Chou YH, Wu Z, Joo W, Komiyama T, Potter CJ, Kolodkin AL, Garcia KC, Luo L. "Secreted semaphorins from degenerating larval ORN axons direct adult projection neuron dendrite targeting." Neuron. 2011 Dec 8;72(5):734-47. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.09.026.

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation


Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology

Activities & Honors


  • Outstanding Undergraduate Geneticist Award, University of California, 1996
  • RO1 Grant, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 2013
  • Grant, Whitehall Foundation, 2011
  • Damon Runyon Cancer Research Fellowship, 2003 - 2006

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