Dennis Matthew: Studying how hunger influences information processing in the brain

Dennis Matthew

Title

Studying how hunger influences information processing in the brain

Mentor

Dennis Matthew

Department

Biology

Bio sketch

Dennis Mathew is an associate professor of Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno, and a co-director of UNR’s Integrative Neuroscience Graduate Program. He received his Ph.D. degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2006. Before joining UNR in 2014, Dennis conducted post-doctoral research at Yale University. Dennis is a neuroscientist interested in understanding how brain circuits process sensory information and how circuit functions change based on whether the animal is hungry or satiated. In 2016, Dennis was a Westfall Scholar mentor and a finalist for the LeMay award for excellence in teaching at UNR.

Project overview

Our lab investigates how an insect’s smell circuit perceives smell information in the environment and translates the information into a behavioral response. The main goal of this project is to understand how hunger influences smell information processing in brain circuits and how problems in these mechanisms lead to metabolic dysfunction such as weight gain in insects and humans. This is an important problem because the impact of sensory mechanisms on the obesity epidemic has been mostly ignored. In a recent study, 80% of patients with olfactory problems were overweight or obese. This statistic is especially significant given that nearly 45% of the US population is overweight or obese.

The incoming students will first familiarize themselves with experimental procedures using the fruit fly insect. Next, they will learn how to design and implement specific research questions to address the project’s main goal. Finally, they will learn best practices to analyze their data, write about it, and present their findings at a local or national conference.