This week’s lecture focused on the basics of the chemical senses, that is, taste and smell, the function and structure of the eye, as well as the central visual system. The lecture was very fact-heavy and thus pretty difficult to digest. However, the professor did a great job at explaining the different concepts so that we could understand them and link them to previously learned material. The main ideas of the lecture were familiar to me, but the details were new and fascinating.
Something I found extremely interesting was that taste buds, or taste receptor cells, have similar structures to neurons. For example, the fact that taste buds transfer information via synapses was completely new to me. In addition, I learned that ATP works as a neurotransmitter in the gustatory process. ATP is released by sweet, bitter and umami taste cells. Sour and salty taste cells release serotonin as a neurotransmitter. The olfactory, or smell, process was much more familiar to me. I have studied the behaviour of the odorant particles and how their binding to the receptor proteins leads to action potentials and eventually to the sensation of smell.
The structure of the eye has been studied multiple times, but especially the microscopic anatomy of the retina was extremely interesting. However, the process of phototransduction was actually a bit confusing and I didn’t really understand the details of dark and light adaptation.
The most difficult topic was the central visual system. It was mostly new information for me, and I most certainly have to study it a bit more. I believe we did not have time to finish all of the material the professor had prepared for us, but luckily the textbook goes into detail about every process!