The brain gathers sensory information from just about every epithelial surface using peripheral neurocircuits. In the tongue, taste cells synapse with fibers of the facial and vagus nerves allowing for the perception of flavor. In the intestine, however, transduction of signals have been described as hormonal and paracrine. The reason is because enteroendocrine cells, referred here as gut sensor cells, are thought to lack synaptic contacts with nerves. In 2015, we discovered that gut sensor cells make synaptic contacts with neurons. Using a monosynaptic rabies virus, we traced the neuronal populations connecting with gut sensory cells and uncover a monosynaptic link with vagal nodose neurons. This connection is functional and capable of transducing signals from specific nutrients in the lumen of the intestine. This novel neuroepithelial circuit serves to connect the gut lumen with the brain and opens the possibility of manipulating gut sensory signals to modulate brain function.

Dr Diego V. Bohórquez

I am a gut-brain neuroscientist.

Though my initial studies focused on GI physiology and nutrition, my expertise evolved to include neuroscience following the many personal stories, which have carefully sharpened my career vision along the way. While pursuing a Doctoral degree in Nutrition, a friend shared her struggles with obesity and gastric bypass surgery.

Surgery was a last resort but helped to reduced her body weight dramatically and resolved her diabetes. Yet, the most striking part of her story for me was that her perception of taste had been markedly transformed. Reshaping her gut caused her brain to convert a prior repulsion at the appearance of runny egg yolk into a strong craving to eat those same eggs.

Today, we are still a long way from understanding the full details of these intriguing conversations between our gut and our brain. But, the more we understand, the closer we are getting to treating disorders involving alterations in the perception of food in our gut.

My focus is to unveil how the brain perceives what the gut feels, how food in the intestine is sensed by our body, and how a sensory signal from a nutrient is transformed into an electrical signal that alters behavior.

About Science Seminars

Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) has been hosting a high-profile seminar series across the disciplines of agriculture, food and nutrition science since 2014.

With a range of speakers from Australia and abroad, the series explores how high-impact science will significantly improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the tropical and sub-tropical food, fibre and agribusiness sectors.

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Level 3 Qld Bioscience Precinct Building 80, St Lucia Room: Large Seminar Room (3.142)