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Neural correlates of evaluative compared with passive tasting

Authors

  • Genevieve Bender,

    1. The John B. Pierce Laboratory, New Haven CT, USA
    2. Interdepartmental Neuroscience, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
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  • Maria G. Veldhuizen,

    1. The John B. Pierce Laboratory, New Haven CT, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
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  • Jed A. Meltzer,

    1. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA
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  • Darren R. Gitelman,

    1. Department of Neurology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA
    2. Department of Radiology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA
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  • Dana M. Small

    1. The John B. Pierce Laboratory, New Haven CT, USA
    2. Interdepartmental Neuroscience, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
    3. Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
    4. Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
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Dr D. M. Small, 1The John B. Pierce Laboratory, as above.
E-mail: dsmall@jbpierce.org

Abstract

We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to test the hypothesis that the nature of the neural response to taste varies as a function of the task the subject is asked to perform. Subjects received sweet, sour, salty and tasteless solutions passively and while evaluating stimulus presence, pleasantness and identity. Within the insula and overlying operculum the location of maximal response to taste vs. tasteless varied as a function of task; however, the primary taste cortex (anterior dorsal insula/frontal operculum – AIFO), as well as a more ventral region of anterior insula, responded to taste vs. tasteless irrespective of task. Although the response here did not depend upon task, preferential connectivity between AIFO and the amygdala (bilaterally) was observed when subjects tasted passively compared with when they performed a task. This suggests that information transfer between AIFO and the amygdala is maximal during implicit processing of taste. In contrast, a region of the left lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) responded preferentially to taste and to tasteless when subjects evaluated pleasantness, and was preferentially connected to earlier gustatory relays (caudomedial OFC and AIFO) when a taste was present. This suggests that processing in the lateral OFC organizes the retrieval of gustatory information from earlier relays in the service of computing perceived pleasantness. These findings show that neural encoding of taste varies as a function of task beyond that of the initial cortical representation.

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