Cephalic phase, reflex insulin secretion. Neuroanatomical and physiological characterization

Diabetologia. 1981 Mar;20 Suppl:393-401.


Using chronically catheterized, freely moving male Wistar rats, we have shown that the sweet taste of a saccharin solution reliably triggers a rapid cephalic phase insulin response (CPIR), in the absence of any significant change of glycemia. To establish the neural mediation of this reflex response we used rats that were cured from streptozotocin diabetes by intrahepatic islet-transplantation as a denervated B-cell preparation. The complete lack of any saccharin-induced CPIR in these rats suggests that it is indeed mediated by the peripheral autonomic nervous system, and that the insulin-stimulating gastrointestinal hormones are not involved in this response. It was further found that this reflex insulin secretion is not easily extinguishable and thus might have an unconditioned component. To investigate the central neural pathways involved in this reflex response we used both electrophysiological methods in anesthetized and semi-micro CNS manipulations in freely moving rats. On the basis of our preliminary results, and several reports, using the decerebrate rat preparation for measuring behavioral or saliva secretory oral taste reactivity, it appears that the CPIR might be organized at the brain stem/midbrain level, receiving strong modulatory influences from the diencephalon. But much further work has to be done to establish the central nervous circuitry. Finally, in two experiments, aiming at the question of how important and physiologically relevant the CPIR might be, we found that, on one hand, its lack can result in pathological oral glucose tolerance and on the other hand its exaggeration might contribute to the behavioral reaction to highly palatable sweet food and the resulting development of dietary obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Eating*
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Rats
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Taste / physiology


  • Insulin