Article abstract

Nature Neuroscience 9, 435 - 442 (2006)
Published online: 5 February 2006 | doi:10.1038/nn1645

Altering expectancy dampens neural response to aversive taste in primary taste cortex

Jack B Nitschke1, Gregory E Dixon1, Issidoros Sarinopoulos1, Sarah J Short1, Jonathan D Cohen2, Edward E Smith3, Stephen M Kosslyn4, Robert M Rose5 & Richard J Davidson1

The primary taste cortex consists of the insula and operculum. Previous work has indicated that neurons in the primary taste cortex respond solely to sensory input from taste receptors and lingual somatosensory receptors. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we show here that expectancy modulates these neural responses in humans. When subjects were led to believe that a highly aversive bitter taste would be less distasteful than it actually was, they reported it to be less aversive than when they had accurate information about the taste and, moreover, the primary taste cortex was less strongly activated. In addition, the activation of the right insula and operculum tracked online ratings of the aversiveness for each taste. Such expectancy-driven modulation of primary sensory cortex may affect perceptions of external events.

  1. Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, Waisman Center, Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Wisconsin, 1500 Highland Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin 53705-2274, USA.
  2. Center for the Study of Brain, Mind and Behavior, Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.
  3. Department of Psychology, Columbia University, 1190 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, New York 10027, USA.
  4. Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
  5. Mind Brain Body and Health Initiative, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas 77555, USA.

Correspondence to: Jack B Nitschke1 e-mail:

Correspondence to: Richard J Davidson1 e-mail:


These links to content published by NPG are automatically generated.


A noseful of objects

Nature Neuroscience News and Views (01 Jul 2009)

Nosing in on the emotional brain

Nature Neuroscience News and Views (01 Feb 2003)