FEB 18, 2019 5:45 PM PST

Tasting With Your Hippocampus?

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

When most people think "hippocampus", they usually think "learning and memory" (alternatively, they can also think "what?"). Most people (in the know) are correct to think of memory when we discuss the hippocampus. The hippocampus has long been known to participate in memory, especially short-term memory. It is also known for its function in storing new memories in the cerebral cortex. It is also very important for learning new environments (think, how do I get from A to B?). However, a recently published article in the Journal of Neuroscience has recently found a new function: taste. 

Photo source: pexels.com

Drs. Donald Katz and Shantanu Jadhav, along with colleagues from Brandeis University, tested the hypothesis that, if the place of food is so important to remember (which they assume is a given), then there should be cells within the hippocampus that respond to both taste and location. To examine this possibility, they recorded from individual neurons within the hippocampi of rats as they were given a battery of tastes in different locations. They found a small proportion of hippocampal cells that responded to tastes. A subset of these cells were also "place cells", which fire when an animal is in a specific place.

We have already known that the hippocampus has connections with taste areas within the cerebral cortex. Furthermore, the hippocampus is necessary for taste discrimination. So we knew that the hippocampus was involved in taste memory, however, this new data suggests that hippocampus itself can process both taste and spatial location memory with the same neurons within the hippocampus. The suggests an efficient neural mechanism to help animals remember and find their way back to locations where they previously found food.

Photo sourcepexels.com

What is really interesting about this study is the timing at which these neural signals emerged compared to other areas in the brain. Brain regions responsible for alertness and emotional regulation, such as the lateral hypothalamus and the amygdala, respectively, may process the taste signal first to determine its relevance. In other words, does this taste good or bad?

Interestingly, these neurons in the hippocampus were also able to differentiate between good and bad tastes. This suggests that the hippocampus may be connecting the palatability of the taste with the location, not necessarily its particular taste properties. This incorporation of taste responses with location information may help animals use past experiences to find food sources. 

The hippocampus is the main gate into the brain's learning and memory system. But the information that the brain stores is sensory first. How does the hippocampus bind these sensory properties with spatial location? This study suggests for the first time that tastes are actually encoded in the hippocampus, but only its emotional valence. Whether or not a taste is palatable is determined by areas such as the amygdala, which then sends its information to the hippocampus to be connected to a particular location. Because it is not just important to know where a food source is, but also which food source is better.

 

Sources: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Physiology, Paris, Journal of Neuroscience, Brain Cognition, www.EurikaAlert.org

About the Author
  • I currently work at a small CRO involved in clinical trial management.
You May Also Like
JUN 30, 2020
Health & Medicine
UK Loosens Regulation on Prescription CBD for Epilepsy
JUN 30, 2020
UK Loosens Regulation on Prescription CBD for Epilepsy
Epidyolex-the epilepsy drug that contains the non-psychoactive cannabis chemical cannabidiol, or CBD-has been changed fr ...
JUL 19, 2020
Neuroscience
Eating Fish May Protect Brain from Air Pollution
JUL 19, 2020
Eating Fish May Protect Brain from Air Pollution
Researchers have found that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may prevent neurodegeneration among older women living in ...
AUG 22, 2020
Neuroscience
Why Don't Babies Always Remember What they Learn?
AUG 22, 2020
Why Don't Babies Always Remember What they Learn?
Researchers from Ruhr- Universitaet Bochum (RUB) in Germany have found that the mood babies are in when they learn somet ...
AUG 28, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
'Jumping' Genes Can Regulate Gene Expression in Human Neurons
AUG 28, 2020
'Jumping' Genes Can Regulate Gene Expression in Human Neurons
Even though genes that code for protein have been an intense focus of biomedical research for decades, the human genome ...
AUG 29, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MDMA and LSD Combo to Enter Clinical Trials
AUG 29, 2020
MDMA and LSD Combo to Enter Clinical Trials
Scientists from the pharmaceutical company, MindMed, have announced the beginning of Phase 1 clinical trials to test Sch ...
SEP 03, 2020
Health & Medicine
High BMI and Waist Circumference Increase Dementia Risk
SEP 03, 2020
High BMI and Waist Circumference Increase Dementia Risk
New research from University College London (UCL) provides another link between obesity and dementia risk. The study cit ...
Loading Comments...