This article is part of the supplement: The chemical senses: recent advances and new promises
The neural processing of taste
1 Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, 855 Monroe Ave., Suite 515, Memphis, TN 38163, USA
2 Department of Psychology and Volen National Center for Complex Systems, Brandeis University, Volen 208/MS 013, 415 South St., Waltham, MA 02454, USA
BMC Neuroscience 2007, 8(Suppl 3):S5 doi:10.1186/1471-2202-8-S3-S5Published: 18 September 2007
Although there have been many recent advances in the field of gustatory neurobiology, our knowledge of how the nervous system is organized to process information about taste is still far from complete. Many studies on this topic have focused on understanding how gustatory neural circuits are spatially organized to represent information about taste quality (e.g., "sweet", "salty", "bitter", etc.). Arguments pertaining to this issue have largely centered on whether taste is carried by dedicated neural channels or a pattern of activity across a neural population. But there is now mounting evidence that the timing of neural events may also importantly contribute to the representation of taste. In this review, we attempt to summarize recent findings in the field that pertain to these issues. Both space and time are variables likely related to the mechanism of the gustatory neural code: information about taste appears to reside in spatial and temporal patterns of activation in gustatory neurons. What is more, the organization of the taste network in the brain would suggest that the parameters of space and time extend to the neural processing of gustatory information on a much grander scale.