Taste laterality studied by means of umami and salt stimuli: An fMRI study

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Abstract

Aim of the present study was to investigate laterality of the gustatory system in the human brain for the taste qualities elicited by MSG (monosodium glutamate) and NaCl (sodium chloride). A total of 23 subjects participated in a block-design functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. Liquid stimuli were presented at supra-threshold concentrations and delivered by means of a computer controlled gustometer. Left and right sides of the mouth were stimulated separately in order to correlate statistical parametrical maps to both the site of the stimulus and the specific taste quality. Following the effects of the site of stimulation through primary and secondary gustatory cortices an effort was made to explore the laterality of the gustatory pathways. Our results showed for both tastants a predominance of ipsilateral connections at the thalamus level. Insula left and right regions were both involved for both tastants. In these regions we found a high proportion of ipsilateral connection again for both the tastants. Considering orbitofrontal/prefrontal cortex, left-sided stimulation with NaCl or MSG produced left-sided activation of the orbito-frontal cortex clearly indicating the presence of an ipsilateral path. Finally, the hypothesis of frontal operculum as primary gustatory cortex and lateral prefrontal cortex as secondary was also supported by the results from dynamic causal modeling.

Highlights

□ Laterality of the gustatory system in the humans. □ MSG and NaCl were applied to the left and right side of the mouth separately. □ Results showed for both the taste quality predominance of ipsilateral connection. □ A Dynamical causal modeling (DCM) was applied. □ The most likely connection was the one that goes from thalamus to fO to lPFC.

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