Deniz Atasoy, Ph.D.
We are interested in neural circuits that regulate feeding behavior and metabolism with a special emphasis on disease models of obesity and eating disorders. Using a variety of cutting edge circuit dissection approaches including optogenetic and pharmacogenetic tools, electrophysiology, imaging as well as behavioural analysis, we map and manipulate neuronal networks to understand synaptic and circuit mechanisms of body weight regulation in health and disease. Environmental conditions such as extended exposure to high fat diet, perinatal undernutrition, aging as well as genetic factors are well known to influence long term body weight and feeding behavior. A major focus of our lab is to understand cellular and circuit level maladaptations to such disease-state feeding behavior. We use cell type specific transcriptomics in combination with circuit dissection approaches to identify molecular and cellular basis of maladaptations. Dissecting out the molecular level alterations that have causal role in dysregulation of feeding behavior may eventually lead to novel candidate targets for therapeutic interventions. Feeding behavior is also strongly influenced by global neuromodulators such as acetylcholine, serotonin as well as catecholamines. Circuit level mechanisms of how these modulators interact with hypothalamic feeding pathways are poorly understood. We are using transgenic mouse models to gain access to various neuromodulator-expressing neuron populations and to map out their interactions with key appetite regulating neurons.