Coding channels in the taste system of the rat

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Science  28 Sep 1990:
Vol. 249, Issue 4976, pp. 1585-1587
DOI: 10.1126/science.2171145


Basic taste qualities are thought to be perceived independently, yet discrete neural coding channels have not been demonstrated in the central nervous system. The response profiles of taste cells in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) of the rat were categorized into four groups, and the effects of amiloride, a passive sodium channel blocker, on each were determined. NTS neurons that responded specifically to sodium chloride (NaCl) or to NaCl and sugars were suppressed by amiloride; those broadly sensitive to salts, acids, and bitter stimuli were unaffected. Moreover, the response profile evoked by NaCl lost its distinctiveness after treatment with amiloride, becoming similar to those evoked by acids and quinine. Receptors that respond to sodium must relay their information through independent coding channels to identifiable subgroups of NTS neurons, the activity of which is responsible for the perception of saltiness.