The long-term goal of the Knight lab is to elucidate the structure and dynamics of the neural circuits that control homeostasis to gain an understanding of how they give rise to goal-directed behaviors and further how they become dysregulated in conditions such as obesity. Recently, the lab reported the first in vivo recordings of the activity of AgRP and POMC neurons, the two most widely studied cell types in the mouse brain that control hunger (Chen et al., Cell, 2015). Those experiments unexpectedly revealed that AgRP and POMC neurons are potently regulated by the sensory detection of food – that is, the mere sight and smell of food is sufficient to rapidly “reset” the activation state of these neurons induced by food deprivation. The discovery suggests that AgRP and POMC neuron activity directly controls appetitive behaviors, such as foraging, and promote the discovery of food. An ongoing interest of the lab is to understand how these and other homeostatic circuits integrate sensory information from the outside world with internal signals arising from the body in order to generate and shape goal-directed behaviors such as feeding.
Zachary Knight earned his B.A. in Chemistry from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in Chemical Biology from UCSF. Following postdoctoral training at Rockefeller University, Dr. Knight joined the Department of Physiology as an Assistant Professor.
Dr. Knight is a Robertson Neuroscience Investigator of the New York Stem Cell Foundation. His work has been recognized by awards from the Sloan, McKnight, Rita Allen, Klingenstein, and Brain and Behavior Research Foundations, as well as NIH New Innovator and Pathway to Independence Awards. Most recently, Dr. Knight received a Pathway Award from the American Diabetes Association.
Elizabeth Cooke, Specialist
Yen-Chu Lin, Specialist
Erica Huey, Specialist
Ailar Poormoghaddam, Specialist
Gwendowlyn Daly, Specialist
Jacob Carlson, Postdoctoral Fellow
Chan Lek Tan, Postdoctoral Fellow
Chris Zimmerman, Neuroscience Graduate Student
Yiming Chen, Neuroscience Graduate Student
Tzu-Wei Kuo, Neuroscience Graduate Student
David Leib, Neuroscience Graduate Student
Alissa Boado, Adminstrative Assistant