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The Brain Perceives Taste with All Senses, Research Reveals

Research team explored how the brain processes stimuli predicting taste

by Stony Brook University
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The phrase “it looks so good you can almost taste it” turns out to be the real deal, based on the findings of a new study by Stony Brook University researchers.

Dr. Alfredo Fontanini Dr. Alfredo Fontanini looks at slides of the gustatory cortex, the part of the brain that mediates the perception of taste.Photo courtesy of Stony Brook UniversityA team led by Alfredo Fontanini, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, 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. Fontanini co-authored the study along with Roberto Vincis, a postdoctoral fellow in the department.

“We found that the gustatory cortex receives information from all the senses, not just taste,” Fontanini said. “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.