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Chem Senses. 2000 Jun;25(3):267-75.

Cortical activation induced by intraoral stimulation with water in humans.

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  • 1Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, Psychiatry Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, One Veterans Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417, USA.


Studies of gustatory processing frequently utilize water as a control stimulus. However, the neural representations of intraoral stimulation with water have received little attention. We report a series of positron emission tomography studies involving intraoral stimulation with deionized distilled water. Attempting to taste water produced large, bilateral activations in insular, opercular, Rolandic and cerebellar cortices relative to resting with eyes closed or 'smelling' odorless air. The magnitude and volume of activation was substantially reduced when tasting water was contrasted with voluntary swallowing. This indicates that much of the activity induced by water reflects intraoral somatosensory or motor processing. Nevertheless, portions of the insula, operculum, post-central gyrus and cerebellum remained significantly activated in the contrast between 'tasting' water and swallowing. This activity appears to represent a specific neural correlate of fluid stimulation, and may reflect aspects of trigeminal, gustatory or thermal coding. These findings emphasize the large volume of cortex dedicated to intraoral processing, and highlight the importance of controlling for nongustatory factors in studies of gustation.

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