Dr Eisuke Koya
Neuronal ensembles underlying reactivity to food-associated cues
Learned associations about food rewards and the environmental cues that predict their availability play an important role in conditions such as food cravings. For example, when we are exposed to food-associated cues (e.g. fast food logo), we may crave for a hamburger. In laboratory mice, exposure to food-associated cues can elicit conditioned responses, such as food-seeking (Ziminski et al., 2017 J Neuroscience). Our previous research has shown that a minority of sparsely distributed sets of neurons called ‘neuronal ensembles’ encode learned associations about cues and rewards.
The aim of this project is to identify neuronal ensemble activation patterns in response to food cue presentation in mice brains, particularly after external manipulations that reduce cue reactivity such as exposure to environmental enrichment. You will assess neuronal ensemble activation patterns by assessing the number of neurons that express the neuronal activity marker ‘Fos’ from motivationally-relevant brain areas (e.g. prefrontal cortex). Understanding how these ensembles react following food cue exposure is crucial for unravelling the neural basis of emotional responses that promote eating such as food cravings.
Visit the Koya lab pages for more information and a full list of publications.