Publication Date



Physiology & Behavior


Rats learn to prefer flavors associated with postingestive effects of nutrients. The physiological signals underlying this postingestive reward are unknown. We have previously shown that rats readily learn to prefer a flavor that was consumed early in a multi-flavored meal when glucose is infused intragastrically (IG), suggesting rapid postingestive reward onset. The present experiments investigate the timing of postingestive fat reward, by providing distinctive flavors in the first and second halves of meals accompanied by IG fat infusion. Learning stronger preference for the earlier or later flavor would indicate when the rewarding postingestive effects are sensed. Rats consumed sweetened, calorically-dilute flavored solutions accompanied by IG high-fat infusion (+ sessions) or water (− sessions). Each session included an “Early” flavor for 8 min followed by a “Late” flavor for 8 min. Learned preferences were then assessed in two-bottle tests (no IG infusion) between Early(+) vs. Early(−), Late(+) vs. Late(−), Early(+) vs. Late(+), and Early(−) vs. Late(−). Rats only preferred Late(+), not Early(+), relative to their respective (−) flavors. In a second experiment rats trained with a higher fat concentration learned to prefer Early(+) but more strongly preferred Late(+). Learned preferences were evident when rats were tested deprived or recently satiated. Unlike with glucose, ingested fat appears to produce a slower-onset rewarding signal, detected later in a meal or after its termination, becoming more strongly associated with flavors towards the end of the meal. This potentially contributes to enhanced liking for dessert foods, which persists even when satiated.