One or two bottle preference tests, i.e., relative fluid consumption, constitute the primary methodology for determining acceptance or rejection of tastes in animals other than humans. These tests require organisms to initiate and maintain drinking behavior, and, therefore, can not be applied to preparations which do not eat or drink spontaneously. The taste reactivity test, a new method for assessing responses to gustatory stimuli, circumvents this shortcoming. A 50 microliter taste stimulus is injected directly into the oral cavity of a freely moving rat and the immediate response videotaped for frame by frame analysis. Each of the sapid stimuli used (4 concentrations of sucrose, NaCl, HCl, and quinine HCl) generated a stereotyped response derived from a lexicon of 4 mimetic (movements of lingual, masticatory, and facial musculature) and 5 body response components. Responses to taste stimuli were highly consistent within and between rats. For example, sapid sucrose, NaCl and HCl stimuli elicited a response sequence beginning with low amplitude, rhythmic mouth movements, followed by rhythmic tongue protrusions, and then lateral tongue movements. No body movements accompanied these mimetic responses. In contrast, quinine in concentrations at and above 3 X 10(-5) M (1/2 log step above the absolute behavioral threshold for quinine) elicited a response pattern beginning with gaping and proceeding through as many as 5 body responses. These normative data for the intact rat can be directly compared to the taste reactivity of neurally ablated preparations which do not spontaneously feed or drink. Such comparisons can be utlized in determining the neural substrates necessary for the execution and regulation of ingestive behavior.