Energy and Nutrient Sensing

All higher organisms possess sensory systems focused on securing adequate energy and essential nutrients to aid their survival. The systems aimed at the external environment (e.g., vision, audition, olfaction, taste, somatosensation in mammals) facilitate detection and ingestion of wholesome compounds and rejection of those that pose health risks. There is little question that the sensory appeal of foods is the primary determinant of food choice. However, inherent likes and dislikes are not reliable predictors of intake as the affective appeal of foods is strongly influenced by experience. The pairing of the sensory properties of foods and the metabolic consequence of their ingestion alters their appeal (positively and negatively in a constantly varying manner). The inherent and acquired sensory impressions of foods also modify the physiological responses their ingestion evokes. These processes, in turn, feedback on sensory function. The metabolic and endocrine responses to food ingestion (e.g., gut hormone secretion), modify appetitive sensations that modulate ingestive decisions as well as the functionality of sensory systems.

IBRC faculty possess expertise in sensory systems, psychology, gut physiology, nutrition, neural systems, endocrinology and other related fields such as food science, animal science, anthropology, health sciences and kinesiology to facilitate the interdisciplinary study of energy and nutrient sensing. This work spans the lifecycle, crosses multiple animal models, including humans, and includes varied cultures. Approaches range from basic and mechanistic studies to clinical trials to ethnographies. The goal is to better understand functional and dysfunctional ingestive behavior, their etiologies, manifestations and consequences. A wide array of opportunities is available for students to study the signaling systems involved with the regulation and dysregulation of energy and nutrient detection and processing.

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