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  1.  Dr. Scott Herness


  2. September 2010 Issue of Neuroscience


Dr. Scott Herness Publishes Research in the Journal Neuroscience

Dr. Scott Herness holds dual appointments as chair of the Division of Oral Biology in the College of Dentistry, and as a professor in the School of Biomedical Science in the College of Medicine.

Herness’s decades of research on the biological mechanisms related to our sense of taste have resulted in an array of prestigious publications that include the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of Physiology, Chemical Senses, and Neuroscience. He has also been a featured guest on National Public Radio’s popular programs, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation: Science Friday.

Working with his research team, Herness focuses on the cellular and physiological mechanisms that taste receptor cells use to respond to gustatory stimuli in the oral cavity -- and his work has changed the notion of how these cells operate.

Taste buds, which were originally understood to be a group of individual cells operating independently, are now thought to function as a collection of cells that work together via extensive cell-to-cell communication. This signaling among cells is part of the series of actions that process taste information within the taste bud, prior to its signaling the central nervous system. Herness has identified the presence of a number of signaling agents—neurotransmitters and neuropeptides—that are used in this cell-to-cell communication.

Herness’s most recent research, which was published in the September (2010) issue of the journal Neuroscience, examines one of these signaling agents, which is the neurotransmitter “norepinephrine.” In his publication titled "Characterization of the Expression Pattern of Adrenergic Receptors in Rat Taste Buds,” Herness and his research partners characterized the expression pattern of norepinephrine receptors across the different cell types that make up the taste bud. Their findings suggest that norepinephrine most likely plays an important role in adjusting the signals that taste buds transmit for sweet and/or bitter stimuli.

Commenting on his publication in Neuroscience, Herness said, “It’s interesting to compare these results to a study in humans which showed that individuals who take the norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor “reboxetine” were more sensitive to bitter taste stimuli.” Herness added, “This research, in addition to offering a better explanation of the basic biological mechanisms of the taste bud, may also help to explain the taste-related side effects of certain medications.”
 

[September 2010]