Sensory system disorders — including the debilitating chronic facial pain condition called trigeminal neuralgia (TN), migraine and the inability to smell (anosmia) — significantly impact health and quality of life. UF researchers are focused on understanding fundamental mechanisms of olfaction, taste, vision and somatosensation in older to treat pain and sensory dysfunction associated with disorders ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease.
UF researchers are investigating smell, taste and visual disorders that are pervasive across neurological and psychiatric disease. The sense of smell (olfaction) for example significantly contributes to our understanding of our environment, and smell impairments not only can be a safety issue (i.e., detecting smoke or spoiled food) but can interfere with the desire to eat, as flavor perception is greatly driven by smell. UF scientists strive to develop a gene therapy approach to find a curative therapy for smell as well as a way to restore vision and target pain pathways.
Research highlights include:
- Gene therapy approaches to cure sensory dysfunction
- Role of olfactory signaling in obesity
- Contribution of perceptual deficits to memory impairments in aging and disease
- Role of sensory function in social behavior
The UFCST unites more than 50 interdisciplinary faculty members across seven colleges with interests in the study of the chemical senses (smell and taste). The UFCST’s mission is to improve the health of Florida residents and boost interest in Florida’s agricultural products by coordinating and promoting basic and applied research and education in the chemical senses. Partnering with the department of otolaryngology, the UFCST recently launched the UF Health Smell Disorders Program to conduct clinical research and patient care for people affected by smell disorders such as anosmia.
Specialized Training Programs
Led by Dr. Steve Munger, the Training Program in Chemosensory Science (TCPS) is an NIH-supported pre-doctoral training program that prepares trainees for careers focused on the science of smell, taste and flavor in academia, industry and the public sector. Graduate students in five UF doctoral programs across three different UF Colleges (medicine, agriculture, and arts and sciences) are eligible to train with TPCS faculty.
Led by Dr. Clay Smith, supports five PhD trainees with the aim of producing independent investigators capable of sustaining productive research programs in the vision sciences. The program is designed for training students in the areas of molecular/cellular biology, genetics, biochemistry, and immunology with particular focus on training in vision research.