The taste of ethanol in a primate model: I. Chorda tympani nerve response in Macaca mulatta

Göran Hellekant, Vicktoria Danilova, Thomas Roberts, Yuzo Ninomiya

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39 Scopus citations


The chorda tympani nerve (CF) mediates taste from the anterior part of the tongue. Here we studied the effects of ethanol on the tongue in recordings from both the whole CT nerve and individual taste fibers of the rhesus monkey, M. mulatta. The response to ethanol consisted of a phasic and a tonic part. At the lowest concentration tested (0.3 M) ethanol gave a response in some animals and at 0.7 M in all animals. A sigmoidal function described best the relationship between nerve response and ethanol concentrations. Hierarchial cluster analysis with 26 nonalcoholic sweet, sour, salty, and bitter stimuli had earlier identified four types of taste fibers each responding predominantly to stimuli within one of the four human taste qualities. Here we found that ethanol stimulated all sweet-best fibers and at high concentration some salt-best fibers, but never any acid-best and bitter-best fibers. This may explain the sweet taste attributed to low ethanol concentration by humans. Further, in mixtures it suppressed the responses in acid-best and bitter-best taste fibers. This may partly explain the effects of ethanol on sour and bitter taste in alcoholic beverages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-484
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grant NIH AA09391.


  • Chorda tympani
  • Ethanol
  • Primates
  • Sweet taste
  • Taste


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