July 2009: Firmenich is proud to announce that the winner of the 2009 Firmenich Flavor and Fragrances Science Award is
Alan J. Carleton, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Sensory Perception and Plasticity
Centre Médical Universitaire, University of Geneva
In recognition for his work towards understanding the process of encoding chemical information into smell and taste perception.
Dr Alan Carleton's research in neuroscience aims at elucidating how chemosensory information is processed in the central nervous system as it moves from the nose, the tongue and the palate to higher areas of the brain. Extracellular recordings of the rat olfactory bulb output neurons enabled Dr Carleton to show that odorants are represented by specific sequences of activated cells. The modulation of this dynamic activity of neuron ensembles during the breathing cycle could provide an efficient coding of odorants.
Using in vivo intrinsic optical imaging, Dr Alan Carleton showed that four of the five primary taste modalities (sweet, bitter, salty and sour) are represented by distinctive spatial patterns in the cortex, but that no region is specific to a single modality.
These gustatory representations appear to be plastic. Indeed, inducing conditioned taste aversion to a sweet and pleasant stimulus elicits a rearrangement of the cortical representation towards the characteristic patterns of bitter and unpleasant tastes. This topographical plasticity was correlated with the preference shift for the stimuli. This means that an internal body state can induce a re-shaping of the cortical representation, leading Dr Carleton to suggest that the gustatory cortex may process the stimulus hedonic value in addition to taste quality and intensity. This is important for research on the development of food preferences and food selection.
To read more about the award, click here
For more information on Alan Carleton, click here