Evidence suggests that centrifugal modulation of brain stem gustatory cells might play a role in the elaboration of complex taste-guided behaviors like conditioned taste aversion and sodium appetite. We previously showed that activity in one forebrain area, the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), increased the chemical selectivity of taste cells in the parabrachial nucleus (PBN). The present study investigates how activity in 2 other similarly interconnected forebrain sites, the lateral hypothalamus (LH) and gustatory cortex (GC), might influence PBN gustatory processing in rats. The potential convergence of descending inputs from these sites, as well as the CeA, was also evaluated. After anesthesia (35 mg/kg Nembutal ip), 70 PBN gustatory neurons were tested before, during, and after electrical stimulation of these forebrain sites, while responding to 0.3 M sucrose, 0.1 M NaCl, 0.01 M citric acid, and 0.003 M QHCl. Although each forebrain site modulated taste-evoked responses, more PBN neurons were influenced by stimulation of the GC (67%) and CeA (73%) than of the LH (48%). Activation of cortex (71%) and amygdala (85%) most often produced inhibition, whereas inhibition and excitation occurred equally often during hypothalamic stimulation. Of the neurons tested for convergence (n = 60), 88% were influenced by ≥ 1 of the 3 sites. Twenty were modulated by stimulation at all 3 sites and another 17 by 2 of the 3 sites. The net effect of centrifugal modulation was to sharpen the across-stimulus response profiles of PBN cells, particular with regard to the NaCl- and citric acid-best cells.
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