Difference in neural reactivity to taste stimuli and visual food stimuli in neural circuits of ingestive behavior

  • Yuko NakamuraEmail author
  • Masahiro Imafuku
  • Hironori Nakatani
  • Atsushi Nishida
  • Shinsuke Koike


Brain responses to sight and taste of foods have been examined to provide insights into neural substrates of ingestive behavior. Since the brain response to food images and taste stimuli are overlapped in neural circuits of eating behavior, each food cue would influence eating behavior in a partly similar manner. However, because few studies have examined the differences in brain responses to each food cue, the variation in neural sensitivity to these food cues or specific brain response to each food cue remain unclear. We thus performed a repeated measures functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study to examine brain responses to the image and taste of various foods for direct comparisons of the brain response to each food cue. Thirty-five healthy adolescents (age: 14–19 years [mean: 17 years], males = 16, females = 19) underwent two fMRI scans, a food image fMRI scan for measurement of brain response to food images, and a taste stimulus fMRI scan for measurement of brain response to taste stimuli. Food images evoked brain responses in the visual information processing regions, anterior insula, striatum, and pre−/postcentral gyrus compared to taste stimuli, whereas taste stimuli induced brain responses in the mid-insula and limbic regions compared to food images. These results imply that food images tend to evoke brain responses in regions associated with food reward anticipation and food choice, whereas taste stimuli tend to induce brain responses in regions involved in assigning existent incentive values to foods based on existent energy homeostatic status.


Visual food cues Taste food cues Ingestive behavior Functional magnetic resonance imaging 



This study was supported by the 12th Hakuho Research Grant for Child Education from Hakuho Foundation and Grant-in-Aids for Early-Career Scientists from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (17 K13931), and in part by UTokyo Center for Integrative Science of Human Behaviour (CiSHuB) and the International Research Center for Neurointelligence (WPI-IRCN) at The University of Tokyo Institutes for Advanced Study (UTIAS).

Author contributions

Y. Nakamura, contributed to the conception and design of the study, data acquisition, analysis and interpretation, and drafted the manuscript; M. Imafuku, contributed to data acquisition and interpretation; H. Nakatani, contributed to data acquisition and interpretation. A. Nishida, contributed to data acquisition and interpretation; S. Koike, contributed to data acquisition, interpretation, and drafted the manuscript.

All authors have provided the final approval and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.


This work was supported by 12th Hakuho Research Grant for Child Education from Hakuho Foundation and Grant-in-Aids for Early-Career Scientists from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (17 K13931).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the Ethics Committee at the Department of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo (Approval No. 513–2).

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Informed consent was also obtained from parents/guardians for high school or middle school participants.

Supplementary material

11682_2019_48_MOESM1_ESM.docx (25 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 25 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Evolutionary Cognitive Sciences, Graduate School of Arts and SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Center for Integrative Science of Human Behavior, Graduate School of Arts and SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Department of Child Development, Faculty of EducationMusashino UniversityTokyoJapan
  4. 4.RIKEN Center for Brain ScienceSaitamaJapan
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral ScienceTokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical ScienceTokyoJapan
  6. 6.University of Tokyo Institute for Diversity & Adaptation of Human Mind (UTIDAHM)TokyoJapan
  7. 7.International Research Center for Neurointelligence (WPI-IRCN)The University of Tokyo Institutes for Advanced Study (UTIAS)TokyoJapan

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