Charles Zuker. Columbia University
Dr. Charles Zuker has made significant contributions to three major sensory transduction systems – vision, mechanosensation and taste. His lab has used molecular, genetic and physiological approaches to investigate the biology of sensory transduction mechanisms in photoreceptors, mechanoreceptors and taste receptors. His work on mammalian taste has completely transformed our understanding of taste from the identification and function of taste receptors and taste receptor cells to the logic of taste coding; from the demonstration of labelled lines at the periphery to the central representation of taste qualities in the cortex of the brain.
Recently, he and his colleagues have focused their work on the representation of taste in the cortex. They have shown that each taste quality is represented in its own cortical field, generating a map of tastes in the mammalian brain. Charles’ studies into both peripheral and central nervous system have revolutionised our understanding of the sense of taste for all five basic taste qualities. His research provides a powerful platform to understand how the brain functions: how complex, hard-wired circuits operate, how they are modulated, and how they are used to guide actions and behaviours. Charles’ studies are a beautiful example of creative and imaginative science at its best. He is a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and of Neuroscience at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and a Senior Fellow at Janelia Farm Research Campus