Miguel Villavicencio Camarillo, Ph.D.

Title
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department
Zuckerman Institute
Institution
Columbia University
Address
Jerome L. Greene Science Center
3227 Broadway, L08-047
City, State, Zip
New York, NY 10027
Phone
212-853-1039
E-mail
[email protected]
Website
https://zukerlab.com/
Research Field
Neuroscience
Award Year
2020
Country Of Origin
Mexico
Mentor Name
Charles Zuker, Ph.D.

Research

In the Zuker lab, I will identify the brain circuits underlying our insatiable appetite for sugar. Intriguingly, “sweet-blind” transgenic animals still crave and show a strong preference for sugar over artificial sweeteners, even though they cannot taste them. But how does sugar signal the brain to produce attraction to sugar independent of the taste system? As it turns out, the Zuker lab revealed that our favoritism for sugar relies on a circuit of neurons that connects the gut and conveys information about dietary sugars directly to the brain. Interestingly, sugar does more than provide pleasure, enjoyment, and calories: In preliminary studies, I have found that sugar can alleviate depressive behaviors in mice subjected to chronic stress. Now, using genetic technology to manipulate and monitor neuronal activity, I will determine whether artificially activating this sugar-sensing circuit can elevate mood in different mouse models of stress—and whether suppressing it will trigger depression and anxiety. I will also trace how these sugar-sensing neurons connect with the brain’s pleasure centers—work that could lead to novel therapies for the management of depression. Overall, my studies in the Zuker lab will uncover new biology regarding our unquenchable craving for sugar.

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