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Identification of human gustatory cortex by activation likelihood estimation

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Abstract

Over the last two decades, neuroimaging methods have identified a variety of taste-responsive brain regions. Their precise location, however, remains in dispute. For example, taste stimulation activates areas throughout the insula and overlying operculum, but identification of subregions has been inconsistent. Furthermore, literature reviews and summaries of gustatory brain activations tend to reiterate rather than resolve this ambiguity. Here, we used a new meta-analytic method [activation likelihood estimation (ALE)] to obtain a probability map of the location of gustatory brain activation across 15 studies. The map of activation likelihood values can also serve as a source of independent coordinates for future region-of-interest analyses. We observed significant cortical activation probabilities in: bilateral anterior insula and overlying frontal operculum, bilateral mid dorsal insula and overlying Rolandic operculum, and bilateral posterior insula/parietal operculum/postcentral gyrus, left lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), right medial OFC, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (prACC) and right mediodorsal thalamus. This analysis confirms the involvement of multiple cortical areas within insula and overlying operculum in gustatory processing and provides a functional “taste map” which can be used as an inclusive mask in the data analyses of future studies. In light of this new analysis, we discuss human central processing of gustatory stimuli and identify topics where increased research effort is warranted. Hum Brain Mapp, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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