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Chemical Senses
Year: 2010  |  Volume: 35  |  Issue: 9  |  Page No.: 801 - 812

Individual Differences in Prefrontal Cortex Activity during Perception of Bitter Taste Using fNIRS Methodology

S Bembich, C Lanzara, A Clarici, S Demarini, B. J Tepper, P Gasparini and D. L. Grasso    

Abstract:

Although bitter taste has a crucial role in nutrition by preventing the ingestion of toxic foods, there are few studies on bitter taste neuroimaging. To identify cortical areas involved in bitter taste perception and to determine if individual differences in taste sensitivity to 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) are represented in the brain by different cortical activation patterns, we examined 48 healthy volunteers using functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Participants rated the perceived intensity of filter paper disks impregnated with PROP and NaCl during the imaging procedure and were then classified as PROP tasters and nontasters. We monitored cortical activity in both the anterior and posterior regions of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC). No activity was detected in the anterior DLPFC in any of the participants. However, during the administration of PROP, significant cortical activation was detected in the more posterior regions of the left DLPFC and in the left and right VLPFC but only in PROP tasters. PROP nontasters showed no cortical activity in these areas. These data suggest that the prefrontal cortex is involved in the conscious perception of the bitter taste of PROP and that the pattern of activity is consistent with individual differences in the ability to taste this compound. Thus, the PROP phenotype is associated with fundamental differences in cortical taste processing.

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