Navigation Links
Great (taste) expectations: Study shows brain anticipates taste, shifts gears

As the prism of our senses, the human brain has ways of refracting sensory input in defiance of reality.

This is seen, for example, in the placebo effect, when simple sugar pills or inert salves taken by unwitting subjects are seen to ease pain or have some other beneficial physiological effect. How the brain processes this faked input and prompts the body to respond is largely a mystery of neuroscience.

Now, however, scientists have begun to peel back some of the neurological secrets of this remarkable phenomenon and show how the brain can be rewired in anticipation of sensory input to respond in prescribed ways. Writing in the current issue (March 1, 2006) of the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists reports the results of experiments that portray the brain in action as it is duped.

The new work, conducted by a team led by UW-Madison assistant professor of psychology and psychiatry Jack B. Nitschke, tested the ability of the human brain to mitigate foul taste through a ruse of anticipation. The work, conducted at the UW-Madison Waisman Center using state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques and distasteful concoctions of quinine on a cohort of college students, reveals in detail how the brain responds to a manipulation intended to mitigate an unpleasant experience.

"There is a potent impact to expectancy," says Nitschke, who, with his colleagues, exposed 43 undergraduate subjects to potions of quinine, sugar water or distilled water while undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The subjects, Nitschke explains, were asked beforehand to associate a prescribed set of cues with a taste. A "minus sign" flashed through fiber optic goggles to subjects undergoing MRI, for instance, was to be an anticipatory signal that a liquid subsequently dripped into the mouth would have a very bitter taste. A "zero "cue corresponded with a neutral taste, and a "plus sign" with a pleasant, sugary taste.

The cues, according to Nitschke, were flashed to subjects just prior to the administration of a few drops of liquid. But in the study, the cues would not always match the taste they were said to presage.

His group observed that when subjects were given a cue that suggested the taste they were about to experience would be less bitter, the taste was perceived as such, and the regions of the brain that code tastes were activated less.

"When the subject sees the warning signal, portions of the brain activated by the misleading cue predict the decreased brain response to the awful taste," Nitschke says. What's more, "the (brain's) response to the misleading cue will predict the subject's perception of what the taste is going to be. The subject anticipates that the taste won't be that bad, and indeed that's what they report."

In short, the new study shows how expectancy affects how humans perceive sensory input, and how events in the brain are directly related to those perceptions.

Importantly, by mapping how the brain anticipates an event and kicks in a placebo effect, Nitschke argues, scientists can begin to think about ways that knowledge could be used in clinical settings.

For Nitschke, who also practices as a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders, the new detailed insights into the power of anticipation could lead to better treatments for such conditions.

"The placebo operates through expectancy. In this study, we've taken the pill out of the picture. We're just manipulating expectancies," he says. "The results beg the question of what can we do to target anticipatory processes in our patients that might lead to better outcomes."


'"/>

Source:University of Wisconsin-Madison


Related biology news :

1. Great White shark evolution debate involves WSU Lake Campus geology professor
2. Aggressive aquatic species invading Great Lakes
3. Low oxygen likely made Great Dying worse, greatly delayed recovery
4. HIV Therapy Greatly Extends Life of Key T Cells, Scientists Find
5. Leading lampreys to slaughter: Pheromone for scourge of Great Lakes identified
6. UNH researcher restoring oyster reefs to Great Bay
7. CSIRO imagery shows Outer Great Barrier Reef at risk from river plumes
8. National Academies advisory: Invasive aquatic species in the Great Lakes
9. Novel Asthma Study Shows Multiple Genetic Input Required; Single-gene Solution Shot Down
10. Emory Study Tests Bone Marrow Stem Cells to Improve Circulation in Legs
11. UCLA Study Shows One-Third of Drug Ads in Medical Journals Do Not Contain References Supporting Medical Claims
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:2/28/2017)... News solutions for biometrics, bag drop and New ADA-compliant kiosk ... At PTE 2017 ... Materna will present its complete end-to-end passenger journey, from ... benefit for passengers. To accelerate the whole passenger handling process, ... to take passengers through the complete integrated process with a ...
(Date:2/24/2017)... , Feb. 24, 2017  EyeLock LLC, a leader of ... elite iris biometric solution on the latest Qualcomm® ... at Mobile World Congress 2017 (February 27 ... in Hall 3, Stand 3E10. ... Haven™ security platform—a combination of hardware, software ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... , Feb. 16, 2017  Genos, a community ... that it has received Laboratory Accreditation from the ... is presented to laboratories that meet stringent requirements ... scientifically rigorous processes. "Genos is committed ... laboratory practices. We,re honored to be receiving CAP ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:3/23/2017)... -- GlobeImmune, Inc. today announced it has entered into a ... of its common stock to NantCell, Inc., a member ... sale of its common stock, NantCell has agreed to ... 200,000 shares, an estimated $2.0 million in value, of ... to enter into this strategic agreement with NantCell," said ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... 23, 2017 Kineta, Inc., a biotechnology ... therapies in immuno-oncology, today announced the discovery and ... compounds that activate interferon response factor 3 (IRF3) ... immune-mediated tumor regression in a murine colon carcinoma ... demonstrated complete tumor regression to initial drug treatment ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. , March 23, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ... million in Series A financing and note conversion to ... products. Cool Planet is focused on developing products that ... raised nearly $30 million in the last 18 months. ... Coppel and North Bridge Venture Partners. ...
(Date:3/22/2017)... March 22, 2017 Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: REGN), ... Center (RGC), U.K. Biobank and GSK to generate genetic sequence ... resource. The initiative will enable researchers to gain valuable insights ... a wide range of serious and life threatening diseases. ... Genetic evidence ...
Breaking Biology Technology: