The large majority of intraoral taste buds in goldfish are located on the gill arches and on the palatal organ, a muscular organ situated on the roof of the mouth. These taste buds are innervated by branches of the vagus nerve which terminate in a laminated vagal lobe, itself being an enlargement of the special visceral sensory column of the medulla. The tracer horseradish peroxidase (HRP) was used to determine the connectivity of the various branches of the vagus nerve that innervate the oropharyngeal gustatory surfaces. The entire oral cavity is mapped onto the vagal lobe so that the anterior end of the palatal organ and the most anterior gill arch are represented anteriorly in the vagal lobe; progressively more posterior oral structures are represented progressively more posteriorly in the lobe. The medial part of the palatal organ and the opposing gill arch surface, i.e., the ventromedial portion, are represented ventrally in the vagal lobe. The dorsolateral portions of the palatal organ and gill arches are represented dorsomedially in the vagal lobe. The topographic representation of the oral structures is similar for both the motor and sensory systems. In addition to this overall topographic organization, the different oropharyngeal structures are represented differentially in the layers of the vagal lobe. Palatal organ inputs reach layers VI and IX while gill arch inputs terminate in layers II, IV, and IX. The overall organization of the vagal lobe suggests a highly organized reflex system which is involved in the separation of food from substrate, especially during bottom feeding.
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