Taste representation in the human insula

Brain Struct Funct. 2010 Jun;214(5-6):551-61. doi: 10.1007/s00429-010-0266-9. Epub 2010 May 29.


The sense of taste exists so that organisms can detect potential nutrients and toxins. Despite the fact that this ability is of critical importance to all species there appear to be significant interspecies differences in gustatory organization. For example, monkeys and humans lack a pontine taste relay, which is a critical relay underlying taste and feeding behavior in rodents. In addition, and of particular relevance to this special issue, the primary taste cortex appears to be located further caudally in the insular cortex in humans compared to in monkeys. The primary aim of this paper is to review the evidence that supports this possibility. It is also suggested that one parsimonious explanation for this apparent interspecies differences is that if, as Craig suggests, the far anterior insular cortex is newly evolved and unique to humans, then the human taste cortex may only appear to be located further caudally because it is no longer the anterior-most section of insular cortex. In addition to discussing the location of taste representation in human insular cortex, evidence is presented to support the possibility that this region is better conceptualized as an integrated oral sensory region that plays role in feeding behavior, rather than as unimodal sensory cortex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite / physiology
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mouth / innervation
  • Mouth / physiology
  • Primates / anatomy & histology
  • Primates / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Visceral Afferents / anatomy & histology
  • Visceral Afferents / physiology