Neural Dynamics of Taste and Hunger Integration in the Mammalian Brainstem

2022 Seed Grant
Nilay Yapici, Ph.D.
Cornell University

Food intake is influenced by many factors such as physiological, social, emotional, and contextual settings. The neural circuits that regulate hunger, satiety, and food intake have been extensively studied in vertebrate models. These studies have identified many regions that impact food intake and energy metabolism especially focusing on the arcuate nucleus (ARC) of the hypothalamus of hypothalamus, an interconnected network of neurons which balance hunger and satiety. However, the first decision to ingest food is predominantly determined by the sense of taste which mediates whether an organism will accept or reject the food source. Although there has been significant progress in understanding the homeostatic biology of food intake in the mammalian systems, the entire sensory-motor neural circuitry that regulates food intake has not been identified: We still do not completely understand how the sensory neural circuits that encode the perception of food interact with the homeostatic central processing centers (hypothalamus) that generate the sensations of hunger and satiety. In this project, Dr. Yapici’s lab will use cutting edge microscopy techniques to reveal how mammalian brainstem contributes to the neural control of food intake. This research in the long-term might provide the necessary information to motivate the development of therapeutic revenues that target the brainstem taste circuits to treat and prevent the high incidence of metabolic diseases and the increasing number of eating disorders in our society.

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