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Chem Senses. 2016 Jun;41(5):457-71. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjw022. Epub 2016 Mar 14.

Separate functions for responses to oral temperature in thermo-gustatory and trigeminal neurons.

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Department of Biology, The University of Oklahoma, 730 Van Vleet Oval, Norman, OK 73019, USA
Department of Biology, The University of Oklahoma, 730 Van Vleet Oval, Norman, OK 73019, USA.


Oral temperature is a component and modifier of taste perception. Both trigeminal (V) and taste-sensitive cells, including those in the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS), can respond to oral temperature. However, functional associations in thermal sensitivity between V and gustatory neurons are poorly understood. To study this we recorded electrophysiological responses to oral stimulation with cool (9, 15, 25, 32, and 34 °C) and warm (40 and 45 °C) temperatures from medullary V (n = 45) and taste-sensitive NTS (n = 27) neurons in anesthetized mice. Results showed temperatures below 34 °C activated the majority of V neurons but only a minority of NTS units. V neurons displayed larger responses to cooling and responded to temperatures that poorly stimulated NTS cells. Multivariate analyses revealed different temperatures induced larger differences in responses across V compared with NTS neurons, indicating V pathways possess greater capacity to signal temperature. Conversely, responses to temperature in NTS units associated with gustatory tuning. Further analyses identified two types of cooling-sensitive V neurons oriented toward innocuous or noxious cooling. Multivariate analyses indicated the combined response of these cells afforded distinction among a broad range of cool temperatures, suggesting multiple types of V neurons work together to represent oral cooling.


multisensory; neural coding; nucleus of the solitary tract; taste; temperature; trigeminal

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