New Research Labs, New Questions to Answer

Kevin Bolding, PhD

Getting to know Kevin Bolding, PhD

Earlier this year, Kevin Bolding, PhD, joined Monell as an assistant faculty member. While Bolding started his academic journey in genetics at Texas A&M university, he received his PhD in neural and behavioral science from SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.

As his focus shifted towards neuroscience and his interest in memory grew over time, Bolding’s work has been addressing how neural and biological mechanisms allow memories to be stored and retrieved in the brain.

During his postdoctoral years, Bolding’s research targeted a specific region of the brain known as the piriform cortex. “Activity in the piriform cortex correlates with human odor perception,” said Bolding. “Understanding how neurons in this area process odors is essential to our understanding of how we perceive and recognize odors.”

Bolding’s most impactful findings have helped describe a mechanism that allows the piriform cortex to maintain its ability to perceive and recognize odor identity across different concentrations of the same odor. Without such a mechanism, our brains would mistake different concentrations of the same odor as completely different odors.

The Bolding lab at Monell is quickly starting up and growing towards near- and long-term goals. The lab is also recruiting new members who will help implement methodologies such as electrophysiological recordings with multi-electrode arrays that make it possible to observe the activity of large populations of neurons in different parts of the olfactory system.

Bolding is hoping that future behavioral analyses in the lab would help better connect neural activity to odor perception and behavior, efforts that will surely advance our understanding of the role of the piriform cortex.

The impact of this research does not stop there. In fact, these efforts also contribute to the advancement of our understanding of how aging affects function in neural circuits. Memory formation and retrieval, odor recognition, and the health of one’s olfactory system are all keys to the study of cognitive change due to aging.

With that said, the Monell Center is excited to have Kevin Bolding join its team of chemosensory scientists and we look forward to welcoming the lab’s new members in the future!

Guillaume de Lartigue, PhD

Getting to know Guillaume de Lartigue, PhD

The neurobiology of eating, the gut-brain axis, and sensory nutrition all describe the research of this newest lab to set up at Monell this summer. As Associate Member de Lartigue, PhD, puts it: “Our research focuses on how sensing of internal stimuli, especially meal-related cues from the gut, influences the decision of when, where, and how much to eat.”

The de Lartigue lab concentrates on the vagus nerve, the largest and most widely branching cranial nerve, one of the 12 nerves that extend between the brain and the rest of the body. It allows for communication to and from all of the body’s major organs: the heart, lungs, spleen, kidney, liver, stomach, and intestines.

The lab is at the forefront of developing tools to map and manipulate parts of the gut-vagus nerve-brain pathway. From this, the team is asking questions about the role of the vagus nerve in the control of eating and long-term obesity and metabolic wellness. In particular, by using and developing innovative scientific methods, they have investigated the links between the gut and brain circuits involved in diverse aspects of feeding behavior.

One of the team’s major previous findings describe the changes experienced by the vagus nerve when bodies move between fasting and more regular eating behaviors. While the vagus nerve normally helps control our intake of certain foods, this ability is diminished when an organism is fasting. The findings led to the thinking that obesity is one condition where the vagus nerve is permanently stuck in the fasting state, unable to provide the control it normally provides.

Dr. de Lartigue, and the lab members who moved here with him, will be looking more closely at the circuits that control the drive to eat fats and sugars and if the gut-brain circuits are disrupted in certain diseases, as well as how this relates to smell, taste, and flavor sensations.