A low-cost open-architecture taste delivery system for gustatory fMRI and BCI experiments

J Neurosci Methods. 2019 Jan 1;311:1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2018.10.003. Epub 2018 Oct 9.


Background: Tasting is a complex process involving chemosensory perception and cognitive evaluation. Different experimental designs and solution delivery approaches may in part explain the variability reported in literature. These technical aspects certainly limit the development of taste-related brain computer interface devices.

New method: We propose a novel modular, scalable and low-cost device for rapid injection of small volumes of taste solutions during fMRI experiments that gathers the possibility to flexibly increase the number of channels, allowing complex multi-dimensional taste experiments. We provide the full description of the hardware and software architecture and illustrate the application of the working prototype in single-subject event-related fMRI experiments by showing the BOLD responses to basic taste qualities and to five intensities of tastes during the course of perception.

Results: The device is shown to be effective in activating multiple clusters within the gustatory pathway and a precise time-resolved event-related analysis is shown to be possible by the impulsive nature of the induced perception.

Comparison with existing method(s): This gustometer represents the first implementation of a low-cost, easily replicable and portable device that is suitable for all kinds of fMRI taste experiments. Its scalability will boost the experimental design of more complex multi-dimensional fMRI studies of the human taste pathway.

Conclusions: The gustometer represents a valid open-architecture alternative to other available devices and its spread and development may contribute to an increased standardization of experimental designs in human fMRI studies of taste perception and pave the way to the development of novel taste-related BCIs.

Keywords: Brain computer interface; Event-related design; Gustatory processing; Gustometer; fMRI.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces*
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Neurophysiology / instrumentation*
  • Software
  • Taste Perception / physiology*