Tongue Cooling: A New Reward for Thirsty Rodents

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Science  25 Dec 1970:
Vol. 170, Issue 3965, pp. 1418-1421
DOI: 10.1126/science.170.3965.1418


Thirsty rodents will persistently lick a stream of dry air pumped through a standard drinking tube. This air-licking is attenuated by experimental manipulations which reduce the evaporative cooling of the tongue and mouth produced by the airstream. This suggests that such cooling is itself an effective reward for thirstry rodents. We tested this hypothesis by presenting thirsty rodents with a piece of cold, dry metal. Different species spent from 9 to 40 percent of their session time licking the cold metal. When deprived of water hamsters reared from birth without access to drinking water licked cold metal in preference to metal maintained at room or body temperature. This preference was approximately equal to that of littermates reared normally. We conclude that tongue cooling is a primary reward for thirsty rodents.