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Thesis Defense: Lateral Parabrachial Choline Acetyltransferase Neurons and the Decision to Eat

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Walt Tatera

Thesis Defense: Lateral Parabrachial Choline Acetyltransferase Neurons and the Decision to Eat

Walt Tatera

Graduate Student, Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health
MS Student, Howe Lab
May 9, 2023 at 10 a.m.,  Room 101, Life Science 1

About this Thesis

Food choice is a modifiable health factor which involves neural, hormonal, and metabolic signals. The lateral parabrachial nucleus is a brain structure in the pons that integrates multiple aspects of food choice. It receives information from the homeostatic melanocortin hypothalamic system and projects to the reward mesolimbic dopamine reward system. The lateral parabrachial is molecularly diverse and expresses the acetylcholine synthesis enzyme: choline acetyltransferase (ChAT). In this study, we used ChAT-CRE mice to investigate the anatomical projections, the calcium dynamics, and the functional implications of the LPBN ChAT neurons. Anatomical projections results were produced using CRE dependent viral vectors to express mRuby tagged synaptophysin, the highest output being the central amygdala. Calcium dynamics were measured at the amygdala using the genetically encoded calcium indicator GCaMP. The dynamics around the decision to consume food were seen to be different between fasted and sated satiety states. Activation of the circuit showed a pronounced latency to food consumption and time to finish for a single calorie of food. These data demonstrate a possible node that integrates homeostatic feeding information and relays it to higher order brain that modify reward value.

More About the Candidate and Project


Virginia Tech, Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health, M.S. Student

Virginia Tech, B.S., Computational and Systems Neuroscience


Howe Lab



William "Matt" Howe, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Neuroscience

Committee Members

  • John Chappell, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC
  • Sujith Vijayan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Neuroscience
  • Society for Neuroscience 2022, San Diego, CA, Poster, Functitional Neuroanatomy of ChAT+ Neurons in the Dorsal Parabrachial Nucleus