Summary: Researchers report the gustatory cortex relies on all the senses to anticipate taste.
Source: Stony Brook University.
Stony Brook researchers demonstrate that the gustatory cortex can be activated by senses even before tasting
The phrase “it looks so good you can almost taste it” may actually be scientifically proven based on the findings of a new study by Stony Brook University researchers that explored how the brain processes stimuli predicting taste. They discovered that the gustatory cortex, the part of the brain that mediates the conscious perception of taste, relies on all the senses to anticipate taste. The overall results, published early online in eLife, change the way neuroscientists think about the role of the gustatory cortex.
“We found that the gustatory cortex receives information from all the senses, not just taste,” said Alfredo Fontanini, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, a co-author of the study along with Roberto Vincis, a postdoctoral fellow in the department. He summarized that “Not all the non-gustatory stimuli are equally effective in activating the gustatory cortex, those that can easily be linked to taste tend to recruit more neurons. Olfaction is particularly effective.”
In the paper, titled “Associative learning changes cross-modal representations in the gustatory cortex,” the investigators concluded that the gustatory cortex’ ability to represent stimuli of multiple modalities is greatly boosted by learning that they can predict taste.
Source: Greg Filiano – Stony Brook University
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Jan Brueghel the Elder and is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Associative learning changes cross-modal representations in the gustatory cortex” by Roberto Vincis and Alfredo Fontanini in eLife. Published online August 30 2016 doi:10.7554/eLife.16420
Associative learning changes cross-modal representations in the gustatory cortex
A growing body of literature has demonstrated that primary sensory cortices are not exclusively unimodal, but can respond to stimuli of different sensory modalities. However, several questions concerning the neural representation of cross-modal stimuli remain open. Indeed, it is poorly understood if cross-modal stimuli evoke unique or overlapping representations in a primary sensory cortex and whether learning can modulate these representations. Here we recorded single unit responses to auditory, visual, somatosensory, and olfactory stimuli in the gustatory cortex (GC) of alert rats before and after associative learning. We found that, in untrained rats, the majority of GC neurons were modulated by a single modality. Upon learning, both prevalence of cross-modal responsive neurons and their breadth of tuning increased, leading to a greater overlap of representations. Altogether, our results show that gustatory cortex represents cross-modal stimuli according to their sensory identity, and that learning changes the overlap of cross-modal representations.
“Associative learning changes cross-modal representations in the gustatory cortex” by Roberto Vincis and Alfredo Fontanini in eLife. Published online August 30 2016 doi:10.7554/eLife.16420