Deciphering the Neural Circuitry of Nausea

2023 Seed Grant
Hojoon Lee, Ph.D.
Northwestern University

How does the body tell the brain that something is just not right? Nausea is an unpleasant sensation that has likely evolved as a general defense mechanism to signal and remedy physiological distress. Nausea (often accompanied by dizziness, vomiting, and cold sweats) has been recognized since classical antiquity; the word itself originates from the Greek naus (ship), implying “sea sickness”. However, these symptoms can be brought on by a variety of causes, including many illnesses, side-effect of medications, food poisoning, anxiety, and pregnancy. Even though nausea is frequently experienced by humans and other animals, our understanding of the underlying neural mechanisms remains very poor. To tackle this mystery, we recently developed experimental methods to induce nausea in a mouse model. Moreover, we have identified the brain regions that are likely responsible. Leveraging these developments, Dr. Lee’s objectives for this study are 1) to selectively label and manipulate neurons that are activated during nausea, and 2) to identify genetic characteristics of nausea neurons using single-cell transcriptomics. Dr. Lee’s lab envisions that their studies will provide critical insights into the neurobiology underlying nausea and, ultimately, lead to the development of therapeutic strategies to counteract this debilitating condition.

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