Repeated exposures to gustatory stimuli produce habituation or positive contrast effects in perinatal rats

G Andrew Mickley, Cynthia L Kenmuir, Christine M Dengler-Crish, Colleen McMullen, Anna McConnell, Elizabeth Valentine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Adult rats exhibit a decrease in consummatory responses following repeated presentations of a taste (habituation) and an increase in consummatory responses if they experience an upward shift in the magnitude or intensity of a gustatory stimulus (e.g., sucrose or saccharin). These responses do not represent a direct sensorimotor reaction to a gustatory cue, but rather reflect a change in responding based on the memory of a previous taste. Here, we sought to determine if fetal rats could (like adults) adjust their orofacial motor responses based on a memory of recent gustatory experience. Embryonic Day 18 (E18) or Day 19 (E19) rat fetuses received oral lavage with either 0.15 or 0.30% saccharin (SAC). Subsequently, observations of orofacial movements (mouthing and licking) following oral lavage with 0.30% SAC were made 50 min later, 24 hr later, or on postnatal Day 3 (P3). Thus, some animals were in a "shifted" condition in which they first experienced a relatively low concentration of SAC and then a higher one while control rats ("nonshifted") received 0.30% SAC during both taste exposures. Fetuses exhibited evidence of both habituation (with repeated presentation of the 0.30% SAC) and positive contrast effects (PCEs) (following an upward shift in SAC concentration) when retested 50 min after their first exposure to SAC on E19. However, these animals did not exhibit PCEs 24 hr later or 5 days later (on P3). Contrast effects were not observed when the initial SAC exposure was on E18, and habituation responses were variable depending on the time interval between the taste presentations to these animals. Rats with a 5- to 6-day latency between the two taste presentations showed neither PCEs nor habituation. Our data indicate that PCEs and habituation effects emerge at different ages, and their demonstration is dependent upon the latency between the taste presentations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-88
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2004

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cues
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Female
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Male
  • Periodicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Saccharin/administration & dosage
  • Sweetening Agents/administration & dosage
  • Taste/physiology


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