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Neuroimage. 2010 Nov 1;53(2):602-10. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.05.012. Epub 2010 May 20.

Age-related functional changes in gustatory and reward processing regions: An fMRI study.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, USA.


Changes in appetite in older adults may result in unhealthy weight change and negatively affect overall nutrition. Research examining gustatory processing in young adults has linked changes in patterns of the hemodynamic response of gustatory and motivation related brain regions to the physiological states of hunger and satiety. Whether the same brain regions are involved in taste processing in older adults is unknown. The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine age-related changes in gustatory processing during hedonic assessment. Caffeine, citric acid, sucrose, and NaCl were administered orally during two event-related fMRI sessions, one during hunger and one after a pre-load. Participants assessed the pleasantness of the solutions in each session. Increased activity of the insula was seen in both age groups during hunger. Activity of secondary and higher order taste processing and reward regions such as the orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, and caudate nucleus was also observed. Hunger and satiety differentially affected the hemodynamic response, resulting in positive global activation during hunger and negative during satiety in both age groups. While in a state of hunger, the frequency and consistency of positive activation in gustatory and reward processing regions was greater in older adults. Additional regions not commonly associated with taste processing were also activated in older adults. Investigating the neurological response of older adults to taste stimuli under conditions of hunger and satiety may aid in understanding appetite, health, and functional changes in this population.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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