Donald Katz is Professor of Psychology in the Departments of Neuroscience, Psychology, and the Volen National Center for Complex Systems at Brandeis University.
Dr. Katz is a pioneer in the study of the neuroscience of taste. His research blends psychology, neurophysiology and computational methods. For his work in these areas, he has received many honors, including the Ajinomoto and Pollack Awards from the Association for Chemoreception Science, and the Neubauer Award for Teaching and Mentoring from Brandeis University. His work and scholarship has been featured in The Boston Globe, Today, TedX, Cambridge Festival of Science, and at many conferences including the Manhattan Cocktail Classic.
The Katz Lab is an academic research lab that studies the neural ensemble dynamics of sensori-motor processes in awake rodents, combining behavior, multi-neuronal electrophysiology, complex analysis and modeling, pharmacology and optogenetics to probe ongoing spiking activity in real-time.
The cornerstone of the research involves examination of the neural responses to gustatory (taste) stimuli, which are unique in their reliable non-arbitrariness: a gustatory stimulus hits the tongue laden with meaning—each causes an emotional response (yum or yuck), and each causes a behavior (consumption or rejection); much of the research plumbs these processes.
Furthermore, the potency of taste stimuli is such that rats quickly learn about their properties—whether they poison or nourish—and readily learn ABOUT visual and auditory stimuli that are PAIRED with them. These processes are studied as well, a pursuit which has led the researchers into some experiments that don’t involve taste at all.