Sandeep Datta, MD, PhD

Institution: Harvard Medical School
Research: Encoding appetitive food preferences
Grants & Publications: Harvard Catalyst
Categories: HMS

Food-seeking behavior is driven by the interplay of internal state and cues from the external world; while remarkable progress has been made in understanding the neuroendocrinological mechanisms that translate metabolic states into motivational states, little is known about how sensory information representing state- appropriate appetitive objects in the world is represented in the brain, or how this information is merged with internal state data to drive adaptive behaviors such as foraging. We have developed a suite of molecular genetic and neural tracing methods that are enabling our lab to identify specific sensory channels in the olfactory epithelium that are crucial for innate odor-driven behaviors such as foraging for food or approaching mates, and to trace the flow of information from the nose through the olfactory cortex into limbic, striatal and hypothalamic regions of the brain responsible for driving innate behaviors and altering energy balance and expenditure. These experiments will reveal the neural basis for behaviors that play critical roles in normal energy homeostasis, and potentially identify neural substrates that are affected as part of the pathophysiology of obesity and diabetes.