Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

J Cogn Neurosci. 2000 Mar;12(2):238-45

Incomplete gustatory lateralization as shown by analysis of taste discrimination after callosotomy

The lateral organization of the gustatory pathway in man is incompletely understood. Majority of the studies support an uncrossed projection from each side of the tongue to the cortex, but reports of an opposite crossed organization continue to appear in the neurological literature. We studied the lateral organization of the gustatory pathway in normal controls, a man with a complete callosal agenesis, and a man with a complete section of the corpus callosum, a right anterior-frontal lesion, and language in the left hemisphere. Sapid solutions were applied to one or the other side of the tongue, and subjects reported the taste of the stimulus either verbally or by manually pointing to the name of the taste. There were no differences in accuracy and reaction time between the right and left hemitongues of the controls and the genetically acallosal observer. By contrast, the callosotomy subject showed a constant marked advantage of the left hemitongue over the right for both accuracy and speed of response, though performance with right stimuli was clearly above chance. The left advantage can be attributed to the left hemisphere being favored by the essentially verbal nature of the task, or to the presence of a lesion in cortical gustatory areas in the right hemisphere, or to both factors. Whichever of these hypotheses turns out to be correct, the results unequivocally reject the notion of an exclusively crossed organization of the gustatory pathway from the tongue to the cortex, and favor the notion of a bilaterally distributed organization of this pathway with a marked predominance of the uncrossed over the crossed component.

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