Technological advances in neuroscience in general, and molecular biology in particular, offer tremendous experimental opportunities for researchers studying the vertebrate gustatory system. Ultimately, however, the neurobiological events must be linked to the taste-related behavior of the animal. Although there has been some promising work in this regard, progress has been hampered by an absence of a unified theoretical framework regarding function, unconfirmed assumptions inherent in many experimental designs, and a misguided predilection for researchers to interpret results from a variety of vertebrate models in the context of human psychophysics. This review article offers a heuristic for the organization of taste function and encourages greater coordination between behavioral and neurobiological approaches to the problem of understanding gustatory processes in the nervous system. The potential power of such coordinated efforts is discussed as well as the possible interpretive pitfalls associated with the neural analysis of gustation. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.
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