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A new gustometer: Template for the construction of a portable and modular stimulator for taste and lingual touch.

Andersen, Camilla Arndal; Alfine, Lorenzo; Ohla, Kathrin; Höchenberger, Richard

Taste research has been hampered by technical difficulties, mostly because liquid taste stimuli are difficult to control in terms of timing and application area. Exact stimulus control requires a gustometer; yet, existing devices are either not well-documented or rather inflexible. We designed a gustometer based on a computer-controlled, modular pump system, which can be extended through additional hardware modules, e.g. for heating of the stimuli or sending and receiving triggers. All components are available for purchase “off-the-shelf”. The pumps deliver liquids through plastic tubing and can be connected to commercially available or custom-made mouthpieces. We determined the temporal precision of the device. Onset delay showed minuscule variation within pumps (SD < 3 ms) and small differences between pumps (< 4.5 ms). Rise time was less than 2 ms (SD < 2 ms). Dosage volume bias was only 2%. To test whether the hemitongues could be stimulated independently, we conducted a behavioral experiment. 18 participants received tasteless stimuli to the left, right, or both sides of the tongue. The side of stimulation was correctly identified in 91% of the trials, indicating that the setup is suitable for lateralized stimulation. EEG responses to water and salty stimuli were recorded from two participants; the stimulation successfully evoked event-related responses, demonstrating the suitability of the device for use in electrophysiological investigations. We provide a Python-based open-source software package and a web interface to easily operate the system. We thereby hope to facilitate access to state-of-the-art taste research methods and to increase reproducibility across laboratories.

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