Appetitive long-term taste conditioning enhances human visually evoked EEG responses

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Abstract

Long-term effects of learned associations between an image and a taste have not been studied with electromagnetic brain scanning techniques. The possibility that taste conditioning may change sensory image processing was investigated in young adult subjects. EEG-responses evoked by images were recorded before and after a training session using an image as conditioned stimulus and a pleasant taste as unconditioned stimulus. The results showed that in posterior electrodes placed over visual cortex areas, the following changes occurred after conditioning: (1) the amplitude and duration of the N2–P3 waves in the visual evoked potentials were enhanced; (2) the N2 and P3 peak delays were shortened; (3) power induced by image presentation was enhanced in the delta and theta frequency bands; (4) cross-hemispheric delta and theta coherences among the posterior electrodes were enhanced; (5) calculations of the underlying whole brain distribution of currents using swLORETA showed elevated current densities in posterior voxels. None of the above changes occurred in a sham-trained control group. In electrodes placed over the prefrontal cortex, delta and theta power also rose significantly. It is suggested that the appetitive taste conditioning potentiated synaptic activity in visual cortex networks and that this led to an increased speed of image processing.

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