Kenichi Tokita Receives Grant for Taste Processing Research

|

Kenichi Tokita, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at UTHSC, has received a grant totaling $444,000 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Kenichi Tokita, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant totaling $444,000 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health. The grant will fund a study examining the role taste perception and function play in brain function. Funding for the study titled, “The Role of the Thalamus in Taste Processing,” will be distributed over a three-year period.

Many sensory functions are linked to the thalamus, which is a symmetrical structure located in the center of the brain. Once the thalamus detects a sensation, such as taste, sound or movement, it then, through neurological connections, relays the perception throughout the brain. In this study, Dr. Tokita and his research team will examine how taste perception and behavior contribute to brain functioning as a whole, using rodents as research models.

The rodent has become a vital research model, due to the obvious advantages of genetically modified strains. However, from an anatomical, physiological or behavioral perspective, relatively little is known about the function of the rodent gustatory system, the sensory system for the sense of taste known as VPMpc.

“In this project, we take a multi-level approach towards clarifying the function of the mouse VPMpc,” said Dr. Tokita. “These basic studies will also set the table for future studies in taste processing utilizing genetically targeted lines of rodents.”

In this novel project, each experiment represents the very first study of VPMpc function in the mouse, a species of burgeoning use in the gustatory field.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.