PATRICIA M. DI LORENZO
Professor of Psychology
Ph.D., University of Rochester
Post-doctoral fellowship: UCLA
Area: Behavioral Neuroscience
Office: Science IV, Room 128
Curriculum vitae (pdf, 88.7kb)
Society for Neuroscience; Association for Chemoreception Sciences; National Science Foundation, Sensory Systems Review panel, 1996, 2008; National Institutes of Health Study Section, 2010; Methods in Computational Neuroscience, short course at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, 1993; director of the undergraduate Integrative Neuroscience Program, 1998-present.
Neural code for taste in the brainstem; temporal coding of sensation.
My research interests lie in the area of neural coding in sensory systems. Using the gustatory system as a model, my graduate students and I have pursued two separate but interrelated strategies. First, we have presented the system with an array of natural stimuli, i.e. examples of various taste qualities, and recorded the electrophysiological responses from taste-sensitive neurons in anesthetized and awake, freely-licking rats. By the analysis of the spike trains evoked in small groups of simultaneously recorded neurons, we have been able to deduce some of the interrelationships among taste cells that produce their characteristic sensitivity patterns. As part of this effort, we have proposed a neural network model of taste processing in the brain stem. Although it is still evolving, our model demonstrates the possibility that some of the well-studied features of taste-responsive neurons may actually be emergent properties of network processing, rather than intrinsic characteristics. As a second, complimentary strategy we have driven taste-related neurons with electrical pulses presented in a temporal sequence that mimics the temporal pattern of the neural response to a natural tastant. We then assess the evoked sensation in terms of its similarity to a natural taste. By systematically varying the temporal parameters of this artificial stimulus, i.e., the electrical stimulation, we hope to discover which aspects of the neural response evokes the various characteristics of a taste perception.
Philosophy of Graduate Training:
In my opinion, the experience of being a graduate student should be one of the most intellectually stimulating, and challenging, of one's career. Since so much of one's career after graduate school depends on self motivation, I think that graduate school should be a place where self initiative and creativity should be nurtured and rewarded. The role of the graduate advisor is to encourage intellectual growth by providing the opportunity for the acquisition of knowledge, the expression of ideas and the experience of discovery.
Rosen, A.M., Sichtig, H., Schaffer, J.D. and Di Lorenzo, P.M. Taste-specific cell assemblies in a biologically informed model of the nucleus of the solitary tract. J. Neurophysiol., in press.
Di Lorenzo, P.M., Chen, J.Y. and Victor, J.D. (2009) Quality time: Representation of a multidimensional sensory domain through temporal coding. J. Neurosci. 29(29): 9227-9238.
Di Lorenzo, P.M., Leshchinskiy, S., Moroney, D.N and Ozdoba, J.M. (2009) Making time count: Functional evidence for temporal coding of taste sensation. Behav. Neurosci., 123(1): 14-25.
Di Lorenzo, P.M., Platt, D. and Victor, J.D. (2009) Information processing in the parabrachial nucleus of the pons: Temporal relationships of input and output. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1170: 365-371.
Hallock, R.M. and Di Lorenzo, P.M. (2006) Temporal coding in the gustatory system. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev., 30(8): 1145-1160.
Di Lorenzo, P.M., Lemon, C.H. and Reich, C.G. (2003) Dynamic coding of taste stimuli in the brain stem: effects of brief pulses of taste stimuli on subsequent taste responses. J. Neurosci., 23: 8893-8902.
Di Lorenzo, P.M. and Victor, J.D. (2003) Taste response variability and temporal coding in the nucleus of the solitary tract of the rat. J. Neurophysiol., 90: 1418-1431.