Taste responses in the nucleus tractus solitarius of the chronic decerebrate rat

Gregory P. Mark, Thomas R. Scott, Fat Chun Tony Chang, Harvey J. Grill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The ingestive behavior of decerebrate rats has been studied for some time, yet little is known of its neural substrates. While taste fibers in rats proceed from hindbrain to thalamus and ventral forebrain, these regions return centrifugal fibers to the hindbrain by which lower-order taste activity may be influenced. We examined the functional characteristics of taste neurons in the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS) of chronic decerebrate rats in which this reciprocal communication was disrupted and compared them with those of intact controls. Nine Wistar rats were decerebrated at the supracollicular level. After a minimum of one week recovery, they were immobilized with Flaxedil, anesthetized locally and prepared for recording. The responses of 50 taste cells were isolated bilaterally from the NTS of these animals, while the activity of 50 additional neurons was recorded from 12 intact rats under the same conditions. Taste stimuli included 7 NaLi salts, 3 sugars, HCl and citric acids, quinine HCl and NaSaccharin. Mean spontaneous activity in decerebrates was 6.5 spikes/s, 36.0% lower than the level in intact animals. Mean evoked activity was reduced by 32.6%. Analyses of the effects of stimulus quality, intensity and time course of the responses all indicated that the decrease in activity was attributable to the inability of taste cells in decerebrate rats to respond to demands for high discharge rates. This deficit could be responsible for the failure of these animals to develop conditioned taste aversions. Neurons from decerebrate preparations did, however, retain the broad sensitivity across stimuli that characterized taste cells in intact preparations. It was also typical that most neuron response profiles from decerebrates could be grouped into 3 loose clusters with peak sensitivities to acid-salt, salt or sugar. An analysis of similarities among stimulus activity profiles indicated that NaLi salts, sugars and an acid-quinine complex represented 3 groups of stimulus quality; in intact animals, the primary distinction was between sweet and non-sweet stimuli. Moreover, the response to sodium saccharin lost its bitter component in decerebrates. These findings were in general agreement with those derived from acute decerebrate rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-148
Number of pages12
JournalBrain research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 8 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic
  • Decerebrate
  • Electrophysiology
  • Nucleus tractus solitarii
  • Rat
  • Taste

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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