Eating a new food is a unique event that guides future food choices. A key element for these choices is the perception of flavor (odor-taste associations), a multisensory process dependent upon taste and smell. The two primary cortical areas for taste and smell, gustatory cortex and piriform cortex, are thought to be crucial regions for processing and responding to odor-taste mixtures. To determine how previous experience impacts the primary chemosensory cortices, we compared the expression of the immediate early gene, c-Fos, between rats presented with a taste, an odor, or an odor-taste mixture for the first-time with rats that had many days of prior experience. Compared to rats with prior experience, we found that first-time sampling of all three chemosensory stimuli led to significantly greater c-Fos expression in gustatory cortex. In piriform cortex, only the novel chemosensory stimuli containing odors showed greater c-Fos expression. These results indicate that prior experience with taste, odor, or odor-taste stimuli habituates responses in the primary chemosensory cortices and adds further evidence supporting gustatory cortex as a fundamental node for the integration of gustatory and olfactory signals.
Keywords: Gustatory cortex; Habituation; Odor-taste; Piriform cortex; Rat; c-Fos.
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