Our brain relies on not just one but all the senses to anticipate taste, a new study suggests. The study, by researchers from the Stony Brook University in the US, may change the way neuroscientists think about the role of the gustatory cortex – the part of the brain responsible for the perception of taste.
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.
“We found that the gustatory cortex receives information from all the senses, not just taste,” said Alfredo Fontanini, MD, Associate Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Stony Brook University, in the US.
“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,” said Fontanini.
The study appears in the journal eLife.
According to the journal, Roberto Vincis and Fontanini , said that they recorded single unit responses to auditory, visual, somatosensory, and olfactory stimuli in the gustatory cortex (GC) of alert rats before and after associative learning. They 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.
In this video, Fontanini, describes in detail his research on taste perception.
Next time you take a bite of your delicious food, trust us when we say, it’s all the five senses in your system at work!