To determine whether neurophysiological taste responses of young and old rats are different, recordings were made from the whole chorda tympani nerve which innervates taste buds on the anterior tongue. SHR-SP (Stroke-Prone Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats) in two age groups were studied. Chemical stimuli included single concentrations of 250 mM NH4Cl, 100 mM NaCl, 100 mM KCl, 500 mM sucrose, 20 mM quinine-hydrochloride, 10 mM HCl, 10 mM monosodium glutamate (MSG), 10 mM L- glutamic acid (L-Glu) and an NaCl concentration series. The magnitude of the neural response (response ratio) was calculated by dividing the amplitude of the integrated response by the amplitude of the spontaneous activity that preceded it. Substantial neural responses to all chemicals were obtained at both ages. The responses to KCl, sucrose, quinine-hydrochloride, HCl, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and glutamic acid (Glu) did not change with age, but the response to NaCl did decrease significantly. The profile of the response/concentration function for NaCl differed with age. In particular, the responses to solutions more concentrated than 100 mM NaCl were significantly weaker in aged than in young SHR-SPs. We also observed that recovery from amiloride treatment on the tongue of SHR-SPs was faster in a ged rats than in young ones, suggesting that there is some functional difference in the sodium-specific channels on the taste cell. These results suggest that aged SHR-SP may be less able than young SHR-SPs to discriminate among higher concentrations of NaCl solutions.
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