Neurons in the primate orbitofrontal cortex respond to fat texture independently of viscosity.
Verhagen JV., Rolls ET., Kadohisa M.
The primate orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is a site of convergence from primary taste, olfactory, and somatosensory cortical areas. We describe the responses of a population of single neurons in the OFC that respond to orally applied fat (e.g., safflower oil) and to substances with a similar texture but different chemical composition, such as mineral oil (hydrocarbon) and silicone oil [(Si(CH3)2O)n]. These findings provide evidence that the neurons respond to the oral texture of fat, sensed by the somatosensory system. Use of an oral viscosity stimulus consisting of carboxymethyl-cellulose in the range 1-10,000 centipoise (cP) showed that the responses of these fat-sensitive neurons are not related to stimulus viscosity. Thus a textural component independent of viscosity and related to the slick or oily property is being used to activate these oral fat-sensitive neurons. Moreover, a separate population of neurons responds to viscosity (produced, e.g., by the carboxymethyl-cellulose series), but not to fat with the same viscosity. Thus there is a dissociation between texture channels used to sense fat viscosity and non-fat-produced viscosity. Further, free fatty acids such as linoleic acid do not activate these neurons, providing further evidence that the oral fat-sensing mechanism through which these OFC neurons are activated is not gustatory but textural. Most of this population of fat-sensitive neurons receive convergent taste inputs. These results provide evidence about how oral fat is sensed and are relevant to understanding the physiological and pathophysiological processes related to fat intake.