John Garcia is Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Los
Angeles. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983. He
has over 130 publications. He was awarded the Howard Crosby Warren Medal
for Outstanding Research in 1978 from the Society of Experimental
Psychologists. In 1979 the American Psychological Association awarded
him the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award.
Garcia is best know for the "Garcia Effect," or the study of taste aversion conditioning. One of Garcia's most interesting papers was entitled "Bright Noisy Water." Rats will readily associate taste, but not visual or auditory cues with nausea. Significantly, and this is still a contemporary memory problem, the taste can be separated from the nausea by hours. Where is the memory of the taste held in the brain? Taste aversion conditioning can be induced even when an animal is unconscious. John's research traced out the basic unconditioned response pathway. Neural information arrives at the nucleus tractus solitarius to combine with information about toxins in blood sensed at the area postrema. This information ascends to the amygdala, which is necessary for taste aversion conditioning to occur, and is influenced by descending information from the gustatory neocortex.
Garcia's work has applied significance in protecting lambs and calves from predation by coyotes and wolves. For example, if sheep meat is laced with LiCl and covered with sheep skin and salted in areas where coyotes hunt, then the coyotes will eat the tainted sheep, become sick, and not wish to eat another sheep for a long time in the future.