Department of Neuroscience
University of Leicester
In nature the critical need to achieve energy homeostasis produces a fascinating repertoire of complex behaviour performed by insects, fish, birds, and mammals. For meeting these energetic needs a multitude of neural systems are required to act cooperatively influencing one another’s activity for effective foraging behaviour. Through controlled laboratory work we have been able to begin to bridge the gaps in our understanding on how the anatomy of the nervous system functions for orchestrating the activity of sensorimotor, memory, reward, fear, and decision making circuits for producing such rich and biologically-crucial behaviour. Much experimental work has revealed how primary feeding circuits of the hypothalamus respond and drive feeding behaviour through bottom-up processing. It has been shown that the hypothalamus in many ways acts as a “sixth” sensory system responding to peripheral energy-related cues and interoceptive signals (i.e. glucose, insulin) for guiding appropriate feeding behaviour for meeting the animal’s energy demands. These primary energy-sensing signals are distributed to cognitive, emotional, and motivational brain systems by projections from distinct hypothalamic cell groups. The lab is currently implementing advanced tools in circuit analysis for determining how synaptic connections between energy-sensing systems and higher-order brain systems can influence decisions and memory as they relate to food choices.
Shipton OA, El-Gaby M, Apergis-Schoute J, Deisseroth K, Bannerman DM, Paulsen O, Kohl MM. (2014) Left-right double dissociation of hippocampal memory processes in mice. PNAS 111:15238-43.