Alan Watts

Professor of Biological Science, Neuroscience, Physiology and Biophysics,
Department of Biological Sciences, USC

Portrait photo: Alan Watts

Dr. Alan Watts, USC professor of biological science, neuroscience, physiology and biophysics, leads a research team that focuses on the interactions between the brain and glucose metabolism.

His research now investigates how the brain responds to various changes in glucose level and how the brain itself can change glucose level by activating epinephrine secretion and controlling pancreatic secretion.

Alan Watts is basically a physiologist that drifted into neuroscience. He looks to understand how brain systems work under normal circumstances and also pathological circumstances. By working out the mechanisms, he looks at opportunities to figure out what is there when things go wrong.

Feedback is a critical part of biological control because otherwise you'd never know the consequences of your actions.

“You can draw a network diagram for inside a single beta cell for all the connections, and you can do the same thing in the brain.”

“The vagus nerve conveys a lot of sensory information from the body. What that means is that there are specific nerve endings in the pancreas, in the gut, in the stomach wall, all over the place. And those nerve endings act like your ears and eyes, they pick up specific types of information... Some of these nerve endings have receptors for GLP-1. And in fact, some of these sensory nerve endings line a lot of these blood vessels. They line the gut. So anything that's floating around that interacts with these nerve endings, those impulses get passed onto the brain.”