a collaborative adventure
David Pittman, Ph.D.
Wofford College

John-Paul Baird, Ph.D.
Amherst College



Understanding how benzodiazepines influence food palatability could aid in the prevention of the prevalence of over-weight and obesity in people prescribed benzodiazepines.  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.  


Our research seeks to understand the role of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA,  in modifying afferent taste signals in this hindbrain nucleus. The inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA is known to be present in the hindbrain gustatory nuclei but the specific effect of GABA on taste processing remains unclear.  Furthermore, research has shown that experience can change the hedonic value of taste stimuli and the parabrachial nucleus (PBN) in the hindbrain represents an ideal site for these changes. 
Our studies will be among the first to clarify the role of GABA within the PBN in the control of feeding control by examining the behavioral and neural responses to benzodiazepines in the PBN.
Our project is the first to provide evidence of benzodiazepines effects on neural taste processing in the rodent nervous system.


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 graduate programs.  Contact Professor Pittman or Professor Baird to get involved in the project!

Visit Dr. Pittman's Web Site 

  Visit Dr. Baird's Web Site

Site hosted by the laboratory of Dr. Dave Pittman
Associate Professor of Psychology, Wofford College
429 N. Church Street, Spartanburg, SC  29303

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute On Deafness And Other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R15DC012195. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.