Smell plays a major role in our perception of food. Odorants released inside the mouth during consumption are combined with taste and texture qualities of a food to guide flavor preference learning and food choice behavior. Here, we built on recent physiological findings that implicated primary sensory cortex in multisensory flavor processing. Specifically, we used extracellular recordings in awake rats to characterize responses of single neurons in primary olfactory (OC) and gustatory cortex (GC) to intraoral delivery of odor solutions and compare odor responses to taste and plain water responses. The data reveal responses to olfactory, oral somatosensory, and gustatory qualities of intraoral stimuli in both OC and GC. Moreover, modality-specific responses overlap in time, indicating temporal convergence of multisensory, flavor-related inputs. The results extend previous work suggesting a role for primary OC in mediating influences of taste on smell that characterize flavor perception and point to an integral role for GC in olfactory processing.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY Food perception is inherently multisensory, taking into account taste, smell, and texture qualities. However, the neural mechanisms underlying flavor perception remain unknown. Recording neural activity directly from the rat brain while animals consume multisensory flavor stimuli, we demonstrate that information about odor, taste, and mouthfeel of food converges on primary taste and smell cortex. The results suggest that processing of naturalistic, multisensory information involves an interacting network of primary sensory areas.
- olfactory cortex
- gustatory cortex
- Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society
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