Journal of Neurophysiology

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Gustatory responses of single neurons in the caudolateral orbitofrontal cortex of the macaque monkey

E. T. Rolls, S. Yaxley, Z. J. Sienkiewicz


1. In recordings made from 3,120 single neurons, a secondary cortical taste area was found in the caudolateral part of the orbitofrontal cortex of the cynomolgus macaque monkey, Macaca fascicularis. The area is part of the dysgranular field of the orbitofrontal cortex and is situated anterior to the primary cortical taste areas in the frontal opercular and adjoining insular cortices. 2. The responses of 49 single neurons with gustatory responses in the caudolateral orbitofrontal taste cortex were analyzed using the taste stimuli glucose, NaCl, HCl, quinine HCl, water, and blackcurrant juice. 3. A breadth-of-tuning coefficient was calculated for each neuron. This is a metric that can range from 0.0 for a neuron that responds specifically to only one of the four basic taste stimuli to 1.0 for one that responds equally to all four stimuli. The mean coefficient for 49 cells in the caudolateral orbitofrontal cortex was 0.39. This tuning is much sharper than that of neurons in the nucleus of the solitary tract of the monkey, and sharper than that of neurons in the primary frontal opercular and insular taste cortices. 4. A cluster analysis showed that at least seven different groups of neurons were present. For each of the taste stimuli glucose, blackcurrant juice, NaCl, and water, there was one group of neurons that responded much more to that tastant than to the other tastants. The other groups of neurons responded to two or more of these tastants, such as glucose and blackcurrant juice. In this particular region neurons were not found with large responses to HCl or quinine HCl, although such neurons could be present in other parts of the orbitofrontal cortex. 5. On the basis of this and other evidence it is concluded that in the caudolateral orbitofrontal cortex there is a secondary cortical taste area in which the tuning of neurons has become finer than in early areas of taste processing, in which foods, water, and NaCl are strongly represented and where motivation dependence first becomes manifest in the taste system.