Activation of the human orbitofrontal cortex to a liquid food stimulus is correlated with its subjective pleasantness.
Single-neuron recording studies in non-human primates indicate that orbitofrontal cortex neurons represent the reward value of the sight, smell and taste of food, and even changes in the relative reward value, but provide no direct evidence on brain activity that is correlated with subjective reports of the pleasantness of food. In this fMRI investigation we report a significant correlation between the activation of a region of the human orbitofrontal cortex and the decrease in subjective pleasantness when a liquid food is eaten to satiety. Moreover, a cluster of voxels in the orbitofrontal cortex showed a decrease in its activation that was specific to the particular liquid food consumed in a meal, providing a neural correlate of sensory-specific satiety to a liquid whole food in humans. This sensory-specific reduction in activation of the orbitofrontal cortex correlating with subjective pleasantness is consistent with an important role for the orbitofrontal cortex in human emotion and motivation, and associated subjective states.