Gustatory reward and the nucleus accumbens

Physiol Behav. 2006 Nov 30;89(4):531-5. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.05.024. Epub 2006 Jul 5.


The concept of reward is central to psychology, but remains a cipher for neuroscience. Considerable evidence implicates dopamine in the process of reward and much of the data derives from the nucleus accumbens. Gustatory stimuli are widely used for animal studies of reward, but the connections between the taste and reward systems are unknown. In a series of experiments, our laboratory has addressed this issue using functional neurochemistry and neuroanatomy. First, using microdialysis probes, we demonstrated that sapid sucrose releases dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The effect is dependent on oral stimulation and concentration. We subsequently determined that this response was independent of the thalamocortical gustatory system, but substantially blunted by damage to the parabrachial limbic taste projection. Further experiments using c-fos histochemistry confirmed that the limbic pathway was the prime carrier for the gustatory afferent activity that drives accumbens dopamine release.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Mouth / innervation
  • Mouth / physiology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Reward*
  • Taste / physiology*


  • Dopamine