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J Neurophysiol. 2003 Dec;90(6):3711-24. Epub 2003 Aug 13.

Representations of the texture of food in the primate orbitofrontal cortex: neurons responding to viscosity, grittiness, and capsaicin.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3UD, United Kingdom.


The primate orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is a site of convergence from taste, olfactory, and somatosensory cortical areas. We describe a population of single neurons in the macaque OFC that responds to the texture of food in the mouth. Use of oral viscosity stimuli consisting of carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) in the range 1-10,000 centipoise showed that the responses of one subset of these neurons were related to stimulus viscosity. Some of the neurons had increasing responses to increasing viscosity, some had decreasing responses, and some neurons were tuned to a range of viscosities. These neurons are a different population to oral fat-sensitive neurons, in that their responses to fats (e.g., safflower oil), to silicone oil [(Si(CH3)2O)n], and to mineral oil (hydrocarbon) depended on the viscosity of these oils. Thus there is a dissociation between texture channels used to sense viscosity and fat. Some of these viscosity-sensitive single neurons were unimodal (somatosensory; 25%) and some received convergent taste inputs (75%). A second subpopulation of neurons responded to gritty texture (produced by microspheres suspended in CMC). A third subpopulation of neurons responded to capsaicin. These results provide evidence about the information channels used to represent the texture and flavor of food in a part of the brain important in appetitive responses to food and are relevant to understanding the physiological and pathophysiological processes related to food intake, food selection, and the effects of variety of food texture in combination with taste and other inputs that affect food intake.

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