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Sour Taste Increases Swallowing And Prolongs Hemodynamic Responses In The Cortical Swallowing Network

Rachel W. Mulheren, Erin Kamarunas, Christy L. Ludlow

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Sour stimuli have been shown to upregulate swallowing in patients and in healthy volunteers. However, such changes may be dependent on taste-induced increases in salivary flow. Other mechanisms include genetic taster status (Bartoshuk LM, Duffy VB, Green BG, Hoffman HJ, Ko CW, Lucchina LA, Weiffenbach JM. Physiol Behav 82: 109–114, 2004) and differences between sour and other tastes. We investigated the effects of taste on swallowing frequency and cortical activation in the swallowing network and whether taster status affected responses. Three-milliliter boluses of sour, sour with slow infusion, sweet, water, and water with infusion were compared on swallowing frequency and hemodynamic responses. The sour conditions increased swallowing frequency, whereas sweet and water did not. Changes in cortical oxygenated hemoglobin (hemodynamic responses) measured by functional near-infrared spectroscopy were averaged over 30 trials for each condition per participant in the right and left motor cortex, S1 and supplementary motor area for 30 s following bolus onset. Motion artifact in the hemodynamic response occurred 0–2 s after bolus onset, when the majority of swallows occurred. The peak hemodynamic response 2–7 s after bolus onset did not differ by taste, hemisphere, or cortical location. The mean hemodynamic response 17–22 s after bolus onset was highest in the motor regions of both hemispheres, and greater in the sour and infusion condition than in the water condition. Genetic taster status did not alter changes in swallowing frequency or hemodynamic response. As sour taste significantly increased swallowing and cortical activation equally with and without slow infusion, increases in the cortical swallowing were due to sour taste.