Did you know
that the drugs used to treat anxiety may also make some
foods appear to be more tasty & some people who take these
drugs gain weight?
Pittman & Baird are conducting a collaborative research project to examine the
effect of anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines on
SUMMARY OF OUR RESEARCH GOALS:
1. Understanding the influence
of benzodiazepines on food palatability.
Each year over 6 million people are
diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and it is
estimated that over 50% or over 3 million people are currently
prescribed benzodiazepines for the treatment of anxiety.
Weight gain is listed as a side-effect of benzodiazepines
and laboratory research has shown that benzodiazepines
produce hyperphagia (over-eating) in rats possibly due to an
increase in the palatability of food.
Understanding the mechanisms that might underlie this weight
gain in a rat animal model could aid in the prevention of the prevalence of
weight gain in people prescribed benzodiazepines.
2. Understanding the role of
GABA and the hindbrain in processing afferent gustatory
Benzodiazepines modulate the activity of receptors for the
brain neurochemical known as “GABA”. Research has shown that experience and
benzodiazepines can change the hedonic value (pleasantness)
of taste stimuli. The parabrachial nucleus (PBN) in the
hindbrain represents an ideal location for this interaction
to occur because it receives both afferent visceral and
taste neural signals, as well as input from forebrain
structures that process hedonic value. Our research seeks
to understand the role of the GABA inhibitory
neurotransmitter in modifying afferent taste signals in this
3. Training tomorrow's scientists.
Both Wofford and
Amherst colleges provide superb liberal arts educations.
Professors Pittman and Baird are providing opportunities at these
institutions for undergraduate students to gain high-quality
scientific training in a variety of behavioral and
neurophysiological methodologies. The experience of
working on a project in the Pittman or Baird laboratory can
prepare students to effectively transition into top-notch
Ph.D. graduate programs with meticulous data collection and
advanced data analysis skills, the ability to comprehend and
assimilate primary research literature, and the skills to
effectively present research at conferences and write
research publications. As documented on our
people in the lab page, our students enjoy success
in a variety of scientific, medical, and health-profession
PROJECTS IN THE LAB:
just received a grant from the National Institute on
Deafness and other Communication Disorders of the
National Institutes of Health to fund our collaborative research
Students in Dr. Pittman's
laboratory are examining the effect of benzodiazepines on
the licking responses of rats during long-term testing in
lickometer and during brief-access testing in the
Dr. Pittman is finishing a
study measuring the effect of benzodiazepines on taste
neural responses in the peripheral chorda tympani nerve in
Dr. Baird is finishing a study
measuring the effect of benzodiazepines on taste neural
responses in the brainstem parabrachial nucleus (PBN).