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J Neurosci. 1999 Feb 15;19(4):1532-40.

Responses to the sensory properties of fat of neurons in the primate orbitofrontal cortex.

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University of Oxford, Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford OX1 3UD, Great Britain.


The primate orbitofrontal cortex is a site of convergence of information from primary taste, olfactory, and somatosensory cortical areas. We describe the responses of a population of single neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex that responds to fat in the mouth. The neurons respond, when fatty foods are being eaten, to pure fat such as glyceryl trioleate and also to substances with a similar texture but different chemical composition such as paraffin oil (hydrocarbon) and silicone oil [Si(CH3)2O)n]. This is evidence that the neurons respond to the oral texture of fat, sensed by the somatosensory system. Some of the population of neurons respond unimodally to the texture of fat. Other single neurons show convergence of taste inputs, and others of olfactory inputs, onto single neurons that respond to fat. For example, neurons were found that responded to the mouth feel of fat and the taste of monosodium glutamate (both found in milk), or to the mouth feel of fat and to odor. Feeding to satiety reduces the responses of these neurons to the fatty food eaten, but the neurons still respond to some other foods that have not been fed to satiety. Thus sensory-specific satiety for fat is represented in the responses of single neurons in the primate orbitofrontal cortex. Fat is an important constituent of food that affects its palatability and nutritional effects. The findings described provide evidence that the reward value (or pleasantness) of the mouth feel of fat is represented in the primate orbitofrontal cortex and that the representation is relevant to appetite.

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