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Yali V. Zhang, Ph.D.
Deciphering the Molecular and Cellular Basis of Food Preference
Neuroscience Research Institute
University of California, Santa Barbara
2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, VA 24016
The decision about whether to eat or reject a potential food is based, in part, on chemosensation. As the sensory function of smell can detect odors, chemosensation works as a part of the taste sensory function to detect the presence of chemicals, which can include sweet, bitter, salty, and sour tastes. Food texture – the physical properties of food including hardness and viscosity – is also an essential feature used to assess whether to consume a prospective food. Dr. Zhang’s research uses the fruit fly as an animal model to illuminate how the chemical and physical features of food are detected and integrated. He will present the molecular and cellular basis of salt taste sensation, as well as how animals sense food texture. Dr. Zhang will also discuss how gustatory responses to salt and food texture are conserved between insects and mammals, and how his work with fruit flies could provide a research path to study the effects of taste and texture on food preference in mammals.