Doctors for years have been advising workaholics on the road to success to stop and smell the roses. Now local specialists are studying what effect the smelling actually has.
Neuroscientists at the University of Utah have received a $3.5 million five-year federal grant to continue their studies of sensory reception.Specifically, the specialists want to know how a large number of different physical stimuli in the environment - light, sound, touch, and many substances that can be tasted, smelled, or breathed - are recognized by specialized sensory body organs.
They also want to learn how these unique sense organs convert these physical stimuli into the electric nerve impulses that the brain can understand and then react to.
The School of Medicine's Department of Physiology has been studying these and related problems in neuroscience for many years, and during the last decade has received more than $15 million in federal research awards for these studies.
The new grant from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke will add to more than $6 million now held by the department for research in the neurosciences.
"This program project grant funds six sub-projects studying the fundamental neurobiology of sensory transduction (signaling) in vision, mechanoreception (touch), and arterial chemoreception (detection of blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels)," said Salvatore J. Fidone, acting chairman of the department and principal investigator on the study.
Sharing study direction responsibilities is Dr. Carlos E. Eyzaguirre, former head of the physiology department.
Although their basic neuroscience studies are aimed primarily at uncovering the normal physiology of the body's special organs, the researchers say their work is also important to understanding dysfunction and disease involving these sensory receptors.
For example, knowledge of how the retina of the eye works will help scientists prevent certain kinds of blindness. Understanding how touch receptors in the skin function could affect the treatment for recovery from sensory and motor loss following peripheral nerve injury.
And learning about the oxygen-sensing organs along the body's main arteries may shed new light on how blood gas sensors contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and other abnormal breathing patterns during sleep, the researchers said.