Pictures of appetizing foods activate gustatory cortices for taste and reward

W. Kyle Simmons, Alex Martin, Lawrence W. Barsalou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

437 Scopus citations


Increasing research indicates that concepts are represented as distributed circuits of property information across the brain's modality-specific areas. The current study examines the distributed representation of an important but under-explored category, foods. Participants viewed pictures of appetizing foods (along with pictures of locations for comparison) during event-related fMRI. Compared to location pictures, food pictures activated the right insula/operculum and the left orbitofrontal cortex, both gustatory processing areas. Food pictures also activated regions of visual cortex that represent object shape. Together these areas contribute to a distributed neural circuit that represents food knowledge. Not only does this circuit become active during the tasting of actual foods, it also becomes active while viewing food pictures. Via the process of pattern completion, food pictures activate gustatory regions of the circuit to produce conceptual inferences about taste. Consistent with theories that ground knowledge in the modalities, these inferences arise as reenactments of modality-specific processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1602-1608
Number of pages7
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Concepts
  • fMRI
  • Insula/operculum
  • Knowledge
  • Orbitofrontal cortex


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