Sensory input provides animals with important information about their environment and physiological state. Until recently we focused on the sense of taste and used a combination of molecular, genetic, electrophysiological and imaging approaches to determine how stimuli are detected and discriminated in receptor cells as well as how this information is represented in the brain to drive specific behaviors. We are now primarily focusing on how the trigeminal system detects complex and diverse stimuli from a range of very specialized environments including the face, oral cavity, the teeth, the nasal cavity, surface of the eye and meninges to provide valuable sensory information and control both immediate and long-term responses. We plan to adopt a similar strategy to the one we used in studying taste and have begun by focusing on using new single cell approaches to dissect the molecular diversity in this complex system. Ultimately, we anticipate that these studies will help elucidate new information about the sense of touch, how specialized craniofacial environments are tuned to detect particular stimuli as well as how injury or inflammation can cause a normally innocuous (or even pleasant stimulus) to become painful.

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National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research
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