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Stephen Liberles wants to understand the vagus nerve, a major communication axis between the brain and body that helps monitor the physiological state of internal organs. Liberles and his team use genetic approaches to map cell types of the vagus nerve that communicate with and control different physiological systems. They are also using molecular approaches to identify receptors used for sensation. Currently, the team is investigating how the vagus nerve detects stretch of the stomach and airways, changes in blood pressure, and damage from toxins – information the brain uses to generate perceptions of hunger and nausea and to regulate vital functions like breathing and heart rate.