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Nat Commun. 2019 Mar 5;10(1):1048. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-08857-z.

Distinct representations of basic taste qualities in human gustatory cortex.

Author information

Section of Brain Function Information, Supportive Center for Brain Research, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Aichi, 4448585, Japan.
Department of Human Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 14850, USA.
Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 80309, USA.
Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York, New York, 10027, USA.
Department of Human Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 14850, USA.


The mammalian tongue contains gustatory receptors tuned to basic taste types, providing an evolutionarily old hedonic compass for what and what not to ingest. Although representation of these distinct taste types is a defining feature of primary gustatory cortex in other animals, their identification has remained elusive in humans, leaving the demarcation of human gustatory cortex unclear. Here we used distributed multivoxel activity patterns to identify regions with patterns of activity differentially sensitive to sweet, salty, bitter, and sour taste qualities. These were found in the insula and overlying operculum, with regions in the anterior and middle insula discriminating all tastes and representing their combinatorial coding. These findings replicated at super-high 7 T field strength using different compounds of sweet and bitter taste types, suggesting taste sensation specificity rather than chemical or receptor specificity. Our results provide evidence of the human gustatory cortex in the insula.

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