Two scientists from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) - John D. Boughter, Jr., PhD, and Max Fletcher, PhD - have received a five-year $2.27 million grant through the National Institutes of Health for their project entitled "Spatial taste coding in mouse gustatory cortex."
Their work explores how an important sensory system is organized in the brain and how it works to modify behavioral patterns. Dietary decisions play a vital role in the progression of a number of human conditions (obesity, diabetes, anorexia, hypertension, coronary artery disease, etc.), and arguably the most important factor regulating these decisions is the sense of taste.
"The general idea is that it's a project to map sensory representation in the cortex," said Boughter, associate professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at UTHSC. The duo is accomplishing this aim by using a cutting-edge brain imaging technique called two-photon imaging with animal models, recording a mouse's brain activity as it tastes and feeds.
The part of the brain the two researchers are focusing on, the gustatory cortex, is extremely difficult to access. Located on the lateral surface of the brain, the gustatory cortex is a region where the sense of taste and its reactive neurons are stored. What's more, Boughter and Fletcher are on the forefront of this research, as at the time of their grant submission, only one other paper had been published on the topic.