Mammalian taste perception is complex, requiring the transformation and integration of multiple sensory and cognitive signals. The circuitry and neural processing underlying taste perception reflect this complexity. Recent data from cortical extracellular recordings in behaving rats suggest taste coding is a dynamic and distributed process, with taste perception arising not only from the specific neural populations that are activated, but the temporal order in which neural activation occurs1-3. In addition, there is abundant evidence that taste coding is an active process, dependent on the animal's current behavioral state and previous experience4-6. Despite this wealth of data, there is a glaring gap in our knowledge regarding the neural processing of taste: the cellular and synaptic mechanisms that control neural activity during active tasting. The neurons that are activated during taste perception operate within complex networks, and a complete understanding of taste coding and taste perception will require knowledge about these networks and their microcircuitry at the synaptic level. To this end, we developed and adapted techniques for in vivo whole-cell patch- clamp recording in gustatory cortex from awake-behaving mice as they engage in various taste behaviors.
The specific aims of this proposal are:
Specific Aim 1 : Delineate the synaptic mechanisms of taste responses in gustatory cortex during active tasting.
Specific Aim 2 : Study the effects of associative-learning on cortical synaptic dynamics during active tasting. Accomplishing these aims will increase our knowledge of the synaptic basis for taste responses in gustatory cortex during taste perception, as well as provide important training as I pursue my goal of becoming an independent scientist, running a lab as a tenured faculty member at a research university.
Diabetes is a widespread and costly public health problem in the US. A better understanding of the taste system and processing of sweet tasting foods will help us Enact better, scientifically guided, policies for public nutrition, with the goal of reducing childhood And adult type-2 diabetes.
|Graham, Dustin M; Sun, Chengsan; Hill, David L (2014) Temporal signatures of taste quality driven by active sensing. J Neurosci 34:7398-411|