Constructing quality profiles for taste compounds in rats: a novel paradigm

Physiol Behav. 2008 Oct 20;95(3):413-24. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.07.007. Epub 2008 Jul 9.


We developed a novel behavioral method, adapted from the work by Morrison (1967), for the assessment of taste quality in rats. Four groups of rats were trained to discriminate a standard stimulus (either NaCl, sucrose, quinine, or citric acid, which are widely thought to represent the four basic human taste qualities of salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, respectively) from the remaining three compounds (each at multiple concentrations). Animals were then tested for generalization to the standard stimuli when test compounds were presented and a quality profile was constructed. Rats generalized novel concentrations of standard stimuli completely to their training concentrations and generalized their responses to mixtures of NaCl and sucrose on the basis of the relative concentrations of the stimulus components. In general, the sugars (at high concentrations), denatonium, tartaric acid, and sodium gluconate generalized to sucrose, quinine, citric acid, and NaCl, respectively. Monosodium glutamate generalized to a mixture of sucrose and NaCl. KCl produced a complex generalization profile with notable quinine and citric acid components. Our procedure supplements the current use of the conditioned taste aversion generalization procedure which has some procedural and interpretive limitations. Although our procedure involves the use of a complex stimulus delivery and response measurement apparatus and requires substantial initial conditioning of animals, once trained, a single cohort of animals can be tested for its response to a substantial number of test stimuli over the course of many months without any ostensible loss of stimulus control.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Citric Acid / pharmacology
  • Conditioning, Psychological / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Discrimination Learning / drug effects
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Generalization, Stimulus / drug effects
  • Generalization, Stimulus / physiology
  • Male
  • Quinine / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sodium Chloride / pharmacology
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • Sucrose / pharmacology
  • Sweetening Agents / pharmacology
  • Taste / drug effects
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Perception / drug effects
  • Taste Perception / physiology*
  • Taste Threshold / drug effects
  • Taste Threshold / physiology


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Citric Acid
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Sucrose
  • Quinine