Gustatory responses in macaque monkeys revealed with fMRI: Comments on taste, taste preference, and internal state

Peter M. Kaskan, Aaron M. Dean, Mark A. Nicholas, Andrew R. Mitz, Elisabeth A. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Studies of the neural mechanisms underlying value-based decision making typically employ food or fluid rewards to motivate subjects to perform cognitive tasks. Rewards are often treated as interchangeable, but it is well known that the specific tastes of foods and fluids and the values associated with their taste sensations influence choices and contribute to overall levels of food consumption. Accordingly, we characterized the gustatory system in three macaque monkeys (Macaca mulatta) and examined whether gustatory responses were modulated by preferences and hydration status. To identify taste-responsive cortex, we delivered small quantities (0.1 ml) of sucrose (sweet), citric acid (sour), or distilled water in random order without any predictive cues while scanning monkeys using event-related fMRI. Neural effects were evaluated by using each session in each monkey as a data point in a second-level analysis. By contrasting BOLD responses to sweet and sour tastes with those from distilled water in a group level analysis, we identified taste responses in primary gustatory cortex area G, an adjacent portion of the anterior insular cortex, and prefrontal cortex area 12o. Choice tests administered outside the scanner revealed that all three monkeys strongly preferred sucrose to citric acid or water. BOLD responses in the ventral striatum, ventral pallidum, and amygdala reflected monkeys’ preferences, with greater BOLD responses to sucrose than citric acid. Finally, we examined the influence of hydration level by contrasting BOLD responses to receipt of fluids when monkeys were thirsty and after ad libitum water consumption. BOLD responses in area G and area 12o in the left hemisphere were greater following full hydration. By contrast, BOLD responses in portions of medial frontal cortex were reduced after ad libitum water consumption. These findings highlight brain regions involved in representing taste, taste preference and internal state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)932-942
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Amygdala
  • Motivation
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Prelimbic cortex
  • Reward
  • Ventral striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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