Cortical taste processing evolves through benign taste exposures.

BEHAVIORAL NEUROSCIENCE(2022)

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Abstract
Experience impacts learning and perception. Familiarity with stimuli that later become the conditioned stimulus (CS) in a learning paradigm, for instance, reduces the strength of that learning-a fact well documented in studies of conditioned taste aversion (CTA; De la Casa & Lubow, 1995; Lubow, 1973; Lubow & Moore, 1959). Recently, we have demonstrated that even experience with "incidental" (i.e., non-CS) stimuli influences CTA learning: Long Evans rats pre-exposed to salty and/or sour tastes later learn unusually strong aversions to novel sucrose (Flores et al., 2016), and exhibit enhanced sucrose-responsiveness after learning in gustatory cortex (GC; Flores et al., 2018). These findings suggest that incidental taste exposure (TE) may change spiking responses that have been shown to underlie the processing of tastes in GC. Here, we test this hypothesis, evaluating whether GC neuron spiking responses change across 3 days of taste exposure. Our results demonstrate that the discriminability of GC ensemble taste responses increases with this familiarization. Analysis of single-neuron responses recorded across multiple sessions reveals that taste exposure not only enriches identity and palatability information in taste-evoked activity but also enhances the discriminability of even novel tastes. These findings demonstrate that "mere" familiarization with incidental episodes of tasting changes the neural spiking responses of taste processing and provides specific insight into how such TE may impact later learning. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
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Key words
experience, gustatory cortex, taste familiarity, taste palatability, Long Evans rat
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