PATRICIA M. DI LORENZO
Professor of Psychology
Ph.D., University of Rochester
Post-doctoral fellowship: UCLA
Area: Behavioral Neuroscience
Office: Science IV, Room 128
Curriculum vitae (pdf, 88.7kb)
Society for Neuroscience; Association for Chemoreception Sciences; Member, Somatosensory and Chemosensory Systems Study Section; National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2010-2015; National Science Foundation, Sensory Systems Review panel, 1996, 2008; Methods in Computational Neuroscience, short course at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, 1993; director of the undergraduate Integrative Neuroscience Program, 1998-present.
Neural code for taste in the brainstem of lean and obese rats; temporal coding of sensation.
My research interests lie in the area of neural coding in sensory systems, using the taste system as a model. We have two main lines of research, both involving recording the electrophysiological responses to taste in the brainstem of awake freely licking rats.
The first project is focused on temporal coding of taste quality by the taste-evoked spike trains in the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) and the parabrachial nucleus of the pons (PbN), respectively the first and second central relays for taste. We have published a series of articles on this topic and have now moved on to study the influence of higher structures on the responses in the brainstem. To do this, we use optogenetic tools to discover the influence of the gustatory cortex and lateral hypothalamus on taste responses in NTS and PbN. Our results have shown that these two structures have very different effects on the brainstem, with the cortex influencing cognitive ability and the lateral hypothalamus influencing licking.
The second line of research is focused on the effects of obesity and gastric bypass surgery on the brain. First, we are interested in the effects of a high fat diet on the taste responses in the brainstem of awake rats. Second, we are recording taste responses from the brainstem of rats that have undergone Roux-en Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery. It is well known that both a high fat diet and RYGB surgery change taste preferences but the origin of this effect is unclear. Our collaborator, Dr. Krzysztof Czaja, has shown that the NTS undergoes synaptic reorganization with high fat diets and after RYGB. Our research is aimed at discovering how this reorganization is expressed physiologically in taste-responsive neurons in the brainstem. We also have a collaboration with a RYGB surgeon in Syracuse and have completed a study of taste and smell preference changes in people who have undergone RYGB surgery.
Philosophy of Graduate Training:
In my opinion, the experience of being a graduate student should be one of the most intellectually stimulating, and challenging, of one's career. Since so much of one's career after graduate school depends on self motivation, I think that graduate school should be a place where self initiative and creativity should be nurtured and rewarded. The role of the graduate advisor is to encourage intellectual growth by providing the opportunity for the acquisition of knowledge, the expression of ideas and the experience of discovery.
Escanilla, O.D., Victor, J.D. and Di Lorenzo, P.M. (2015) Odor-taste convergence in the nucleus of the solitary tract of awake freely licking rats. J. Neurosci., 35(16):6284-6297.
Weiss, M.S., Victor, J.D. and Di Lorenzo, P.M. (2014) Taste coding in the parabrachial nucleus of the pons in awake, freely licking rats, and comparison with the nucleus of the solitary tract. J. Neurophysiol., 111(8):1655-70.
Di Lorenzo, P.M. Spike Timing as a mechanism for taste coding in the brainstem. In: Spike Timing: Mechanism and Function. P.M. Di Lorenzo and J.D. Victor, eds., CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, 2013.
Rosen, A.M. and Di Lorenzo, P.M. (2012) Neural coding of taste by simultaneously recorded cells in the nucleus of the solitary tract of the rat. J. Neurophysiol. 108(12): 3301-12.
Roussin, A.T., D’Agostino, A.E., Fooden, A.M., Victor, J.D. and Di Lorenzo, P.M. (2012) Taste coding in the nucleus of the solitary tract of the awake, freely licking rat. J. Neurosci., 32(31): 10494-10506.
Weiss, M.S. and Di Lorenzo, P.M. (2012) Not so fast: Taste coding time in the rat revisited, Front. Integr. Neurosci., 6: 27.