Neuropharmacology of learned flavor preferences

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2010 Nov;97(1):55-62. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2010.06.001. Epub 2010 Jun 19.


Innate and learned flavor preferences influence food and fluid choices in animals. Two primary forms of learned preferences involve flavor-flavor and flavor-nutrient associations in which a particular flavor element (e.g., odor) is paired with an innately preferred flavor element (e.g., sweet taste) or with a positive post-oral nutrient consequence. This review summarizes recent findings related to the neurochemical basis of learned flavor preferences. Systemic and central injections of dopamine receptor antagonists implicate brain dopamine signaling in both flavor-flavor and flavor-nutrient conditioning by the taste and post-oral effects of sugars. Dopamine signaling in the nucleus accumbens, amygdala and lateral hypothalamus is involved in one or both forms of conditioning and selective effects are produced by D1-like and D2-like receptor antagonism. Opioid receptor antagonism, despite its suppressive action on sugar intake and reward, has little effect on the acquisition or expression of flavor preferences conditioned by the sweet taste or post-oral actions of sugars. Other studies indicate that flavor preference conditioning by sugars is differentially influenced by glutamate receptor antagonism, cannabinoid receptor antagonism and benzodiazepine receptor activation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Food Preferences / physiology*
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Taste / physiology*