NIH Grant for Graf to Continue Brain Circuitry Research
Submitted on Monday, 7/14/2014, at 11:36 AM
Here’s a humbling notion: the nervous system of a fruit fly larva and that of a human are remarkably similar.
Ethan Graf, assistant professor of biology at Amherst College, calls this similarity “evolutionary conservation,” and he’s been making full use of it since 2005. That’s when he first began studying the synapses, or connections, between neurons in the brain and nervous system of Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly.
Obesity is an epidemic that ravages individuals and weighs upon society as well. At Amherst College, John-Paul Baird, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, has spent the last year eight years exploring neural networks and brain chemicals that impact eating behavior. These chemicals, called neuropeptides, influence feelings of hunger and fullness, or satiety. Professor Baird's lab is working to characterize how some of these neuropeptides function in certain areas of the brain to influence food intake. The longer-term goal of basic research such as this is to identify potential therapeutic compounds that could contribute to the treatment of obesity and other eating- and metabolic-related disorders.