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Faculty and Research

Faculty Member

Ari Berkowitz

Christian H. Lemon

Associate Professor, Biology Richards Hall 411B & 308 405-325-2365 Ph.D., Behavioral Neuroscience - Binghamton University, 2001


We have a deep interest in sensory coding – how the brain takes in and “maps” sensory input to give rise to perception and behavior. Our model system is the sense of taste. Taste is a component of flavor, which also involves mouthfeel (touch, temperature) and smell. Taste and flavor critically guide ingestive decisions that impact nutritional status and well being in diverse animals, humans included. We study taste and sensory information processing in the brain using a collection of approaches, including neurophysiology, math, animal behavior, and genetics. Some of the ongoing experiments in the lab are centered on delineating the receptive range of taste-sensitive neurons – what are the sensations conveyed by these cells? Published data from several labs, ours included, have revealed that different stimuli from the “bitter” taste category can induce very different patterns of neural activity. This raises the possibility that the nervous system can register differences between stimuli classified as “bitter”, which questions the singularity of this taste category. What is more, cells in the brain responsive to taste chemicals do not show selective tuning to only taste. Taste-sensitive neurons can also respond to oral somatosensation, which includes touch and temperature stimulation inside the mouth. This feature positions “gustatory” neurons to function as integrators of taste and oral cutaneous sensation, a process of generating flavor. We are studying the details of these issues in brain stem circuits.

Selected Publications:

Lemon, C. H. (2017) Modulation of taste processing by temperature. Am. J. Physiol. Regul. Integr. Comp. Physiol. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00089.2017.

Lemon, C. H., Kang, Y., and Li, J. (2016) Separate functions for responses to oral temperature in thermo-gustatory and trigeminal neurons. Chem. Senses: 41: 457-71. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjw022.

Lemon, C. H. (2015) Perceptual and neural responses to sweet taste in humans and rodents. Chemosens Percept. doi:10.1007/s12078-015-9177-8.

Li, J. and Lemon, C. H. (2015) Influence of stimulus and oral adaptation temperature on gustatory responses in central taste-sensitive neurons. J Neurophysiol. 113: 2700-2712.

Wilson, D. M. and Lemon, C. H. (2014) Temperature systematically modifies neural activity for sweet taste. J Neurophysiol. 112: 1667-1677.

Wilson, D. M. and Lemon, C. H. (2013) Modulation of central gustatory coding by temperature. J. Neurophysiol., doi: 10.1152/jn.00974.2012.

Wilson, D. M., Boughter, J. D. Jr., and Lemon, C. H. (2012) Bitter taste stimuli induce differential neural codes in mouse brain. PLoS ONE 7(7): e41597. doi:10.1371.

Brasser, S. M., Silbaugh, B. C., Ketchum, M. J., Olney, J. J., and Lemon, C. H. (2012) Chemosensory responsiveness to ethanol and its individual sensory components in alcohol-preferring, alcohol-nonpreferring and genetically heterogeneous rats. Addiction Biol. 17: 423-436.

Lemon, C. H., Wilson, D. M. and Brasser, S. M. (2011) Differential neural representation of oral ethanol by central taste-sensitive neurons in ethanol-preferring and genetically heterogeneous rats. J. Neurophysiol. 106: 3145-3156.

Lemon, C. H. and Margolskee, R. F. (2009) Contribution of the T1r3 taste receptor to the response properties of central gustatory neurons. J. Neurophysiol. 101: 2459-2471.