Sensory System Neurophysiology and Anatomy
The Sollars Lab researches sensory system development and plasticity in response to neural injury. Specifically, we look at the gustatory system in rats as it develops across early postnatal ages into early adulthood. Our NIH-funded grant (Plasticity in the Developing Taste System) is based upon our earlier finding that injury to the chorda tympani nerve (the gustatory nerve innervating taste buds of fungiform papillae) in developing rats had strikingly different anatomical and behavior effects than effects produced after the same injury in adult rats. Over the years, we have expanded upon this set of studies by examining changes in function, neuroanatomical and anatomical morphology, and immunohistochemical mediators of gustatory development. Another set of studies in the laboratory involves single-neuron and whole-cell neurophysiology of the gustatory system. A particular emphasis is the functional characterization of taste buds in the palate. Features of this important component of taste function remain largely unknown and information we obtain fill a void in our understanding of this sensory system.