AChemS Career Networking Seminar Series

May 2021

"Oral Mechanosensitivity: From Anatomy to Sensation" by Christopher T. Simons, PhD and Yalda Moayedi, PhD
Despite its contribution to speech, swallowing, and the enjoyment of foods, oral mechanosensation is poorly characterized. Drs. Moayedi and Simons are addressing this knowledge gap by applying complementary techniques to better understand the mechanisms underpinning oral tactile sensitivity and its relation to texture perception. Dr. Moayedi’s work uses a multidisciplinary approach to uncover the mechanosensory cells and circuits that underlie oral functions contributing to flavor constructs and feeding behaviors. Dr. Simons uses psychophysical and anatomical techniques to assess variability in human mechanosensitivity and its impact on texture perception and food liking.

“Oral tactile sensitivity and texture perception” by Christopher T. Simons, PhD
Food texture contributes to product acceptance, but oral texture perception is incompletely understood. Whereas mechanosensation underpins texture perception, few studies have assessed oral tactile sensitivity or linked it to perception of food textures. We have assessed lingual and palatal mechano-sensitivity in humans to stimuli varying in the tactile dimensions of viscosity, roughness, pressure, and edge angle. Sensitivity to these stimuli vary across people and oral tissues. Differences in sensitivity are associated with anatomical variation observed in lingual and palatal tissues.

“Anatomical and functional underpinnings of oral mechanosensation" by Yalda Moayedi, PhD
Oral mechanosensation contributes to flavor construction, yet the neurons underlying it are not well understood. To address this, we mapped mouse and human oral mechanosensory neuron endings and found that while hard palate is innervated with similar structures as areas that transduce high acuity touch, the tongue is equipped with unique sensory afferents compared to other body sites. To identify the functional features of mouse tongue-innervating mechanosensory neurons, we use in vivo calcium imaging and computational clustering. We identified five distinct categories of trigeminal neuron responses to tongue pressure. These studies provide new insights into the functions of unique sensory afferents and how they contribute to flavor transduction.