Representation of Sweet and Salty Taste Intensity in the Brain

M.S. Spetter, P.A.M. Smeets, C. de Graaf, M.A. Viergever

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


The intensity of the taste of a food is affected mostly by the amount of sugars (mono- and disaccharides) or salt it contains. To season savory-tasting foods mainly table salt (NaCl) is used and to sweeten foods, sugars like sucrose are used. Foods with highly intense tastes are consumed in smaller amounts. The optimal taste intensity of a food is the intensity at which it is perceived as most pleasant. When taste intensity decreases or increases from optimal, the pleasantness of a food decreases. Here, we investigated the brain representation of sweet and salty taste intensity using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Fifteen subjects visited twice and tasted a range of 4 watery solutions (0–1 M) of either sucrose or NaCl in water. Middle insula activation increased with increasing concentration for both NaCl and sucrose. Despite similar subjective intensity ratings, anterior insula activation by NaCl increased more with concentration than that by sucrose. Amygdala activation increased with increasing NaCl concentration but not sucrose concentration. In conclusion, sweet and salty taste intensity are represented in the middle insula. Amygdala activation is only modulated by saltiness. Further research will need to extrapolate these results from simple solutions to real foods
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-840
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • sensory specific satiety
  • food-intake
  • neural representations
  • mammalian taste
  • aversive taste
  • human amygdala
  • bite size
  • humans
  • perception
  • satiation

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