Chemospecific deficits in taste detection after selective gustatory deafferentation in rats

A. C. Spector, G. J. Schwartz, H. J. Grill

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Electrophysiological data support the existence of sodium-specific taste receptors that appear to be limited to the anterior tongue. However, previous behavioral findings suggest that bilateral transection of the chorda tympani nerve (CTn) has minimal consequences on NaCl intake and preference. This study employed a conditioned avoidance procedure to measure detection thresholds to NaCl and sucrose both before and after bilateral transection of the CTn. Rats were trained to maintain spout contact in response to water presentations (70 μl) and to avoid spout contact when a taste solution (70 μl) was presented. In experiment 1, all rats (n = 3) showed statistically significant impairments in the detectability of NaCl after bilateral section of the CTn. The mean increase in the NaCl detection threshold was 1.41 log units. In contrast, sucrose threshold in these same rats was marginally affected by CTn section (mean increase = 0.22 log units). Experiment 2 (n = 4) replicated the findings of the first experiment. The mean increase in the NaCl detection threshold was 2.23 log units. Sucrose threshold in these rats was, again, only marginally affected by CTn section (mean increase = 0.83 log units). Histological examination of the anterior tongue from the rats in experiment 2 indicated that the CTn transections were complete. These findings reveal that the anterior oral receptive field (innervated by the CTn) containing only 15% of the total taste bud population is critical for the normal detection of NaCl.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R820-R826
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number3 27-3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990



  • animal psychophysics
  • chorda tympani nerve
  • oral chemospecificity
  • sodium chloride thresholds
  • sucrose thresholds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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