“Good taste” is used as a synonym for good judgement. And, interestingly enough, our biological sense of taste evolved to help us quickly judge the value of foods we put in our mouths. Is this nutritious? Poisonous? Taste helps us make these quick assessments, and this can be the difference between life and death or sickness and health.

But taste doesn’t act alone; smell actually plays a huge role in what we think of as taste. Working together within the brain, these senses offer us valuable information about the foods we eat.

On Wednesday (April 26) Leslie Tolbert, University of Arizona Regents’ Professor of Neuroscience, will discuss “The Neuroscience of Taste and Smell” in the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room.

She will be talking about the brain, how it regulates our senses of taste and smell, and how our circuits and receptors transmit and process information from our food and from the world around us to ensure our survival. She will also discuss how these senses change as we get older.

Leslie Tolbert

For more than 25 years, she has led a research group that investigates cellular mechanisms in the brain, including those that underlie the critical role of smell inputs in guiding the development of brain circuitry. What is happening in our brain when taste or smell input is “wrong”?

Tolbert holds a Ph.D. in anatomy from Harvard University.  After her postdoctoral training in neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, she served on the faculty at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine for five years, then moved to a new neuroscience division at the University of Arizona. She became a Regents’ Professor in 2002, and in 2005 became the University of Arizona’s Vice President for Research, Graduate Studies, and Economic Development. In 2013 she returned to her first love, neuroscience.

Written by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer

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