Sensory system must both detect and discriminate stimuli in the environment. The elucidation of the neural basis of these processes is arduous, but an important goal in neuroscience. Our current understanding of the mammalian gustatory stem remains at a rather rudimentary level. This derives, to a large extent, from the failure to coordinate behavioral and neurophysiological approaches to the problem of taste coding in both the peripheral and central nervous system. The overall goal of the proposed project is to specify formal correspondences between the measured psychophysical characteristic of the animal and the electrophysiological properties characterizing peripheral taste afferents. Such an endeavor will generate data that will provide critical insight into the neural coding process. The experiments proposed here are designed to make refined psychophysical assessments of taste function before and after selective gustatory nerve transection n rats. The behavioral tasks are designed to measure the detectability, the suprathreshold taste functions, and the between-stimulus discriminability associated with an array of taste compounds chosen on the basis of their current theoretical relevance. The taste nerves to be examined and their respective oropharyngeal receptive fields are:1) the chorda tympani nerve which innervates the anterior tongue, 2) the glossopharyngeal nerve which innervates the palate. These 3 nerves collectively account for 90- 96% of the total taste bud population. The behavioural results generated by this research will be compared with the electrophysiological findings in the literature. Thus, the taste stimuli and concentrations chosen are consistent with published electrophysiological data.
The specific aims of this research are: 1) to specify the relative contribution of the various gustatory nerves to taste sensibility in an effort to reveal the peripheral organization of the gustatory system; 2) to identify significant features of the neural coding process by comparing psychophysically measured changes in sensory function as a result of specific nerve transection with the known response properties of afferents form both the removed and remaining fields; and 3) to provide a consistent parametric psychophysical data base for rat gustation to guide the analysis and interpretation of neurophysiological findings in both the peripheral and central nervous system. A better understanding of the neural organization of taste processes should facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of chemosensory and neurological disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
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Sensory Disorders and Language Study Section (CMS)
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University of Florida
Schools of Arts and Sciences
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Spector, Alan C; Schier, Lindsey A (2018) Behavioral evidence that select carbohydrate stimuli activate T1R-independent receptor mechanisms. Appetite 122:26-31
Spector, Alan C (2015) Behavioral analyses of taste function and ingestion in rodent models. Physiol Behav 152:516-26
King, Camille Tessitore; Garcea, Mircea; Spector, Alan C (2014) Restoration of quinine-stimulated Fos-immunoreactive neurons in the central nucleus of the amygdala and gustatory cortex following reinnervation or cross-reinnervation of the lingual taste nerves in rats. J Comp Neurol 522:2498-517
Dotson, Cedrick D; Colbert, Connie L; Garcea, Mircea et al. (2012) The consequences of gustatory deafferentation on body mass and feeding patterns in the rat. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 303:R611-23
Blonde, Ginger; Jiang, Enshe; Garcea, Mircea et al. (2010) Learning-based recovery from perceptual impairment in salt discrimination after permanently altered peripheral gustatory input. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 299:R1027-36
Treesukosol, Yada; Blonde, Ginger D; Jiang, Enshe et al. (2010) Necessity of the glossopharyngeal nerve in the maintenance of normal intake and ingestive bout size of corn oil by rats. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 299:R1050-8
Spector, Alan C; Blonde, Ginger; Garcea, Mircea et al. (2010) Rewiring the gustatory system: specificity between nerve and taste bud field is critical for normal salt discrimination. Brain Res 1310:46-57
King, Camille T; Garcea, Mircea; Stolzenberg, Danielle S et al. (2008) Experimentally cross-wired lingual taste nerves can restore normal unconditioned gaping behavior in response to quinine stimulation. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 294:R738-47
Grobe, Connie L; Spector, Alan C (2008) Constructing quality profiles for taste compounds in rats: a novel paradigm. Physiol Behav 95:413-24
Jiang, Enshe; Blonde, Ginger; Garcea, Mircea et al. (2008) Greater superficial petrosal nerve transection in rats does not change unconditioned licking responses to putatively sweet taste stimuli. Chem Senses 33:709-23

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