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Physiology & Behavior





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Rats learn to prefer flavors that are followed by postingestive effects of nutrients. This experiment investigated whether the timing of a flavor (specifically, in the first or second half of the meal) influences learning about that flavor. Stronger learning about earlier or later flavorswould indicate when the rewarding postingestive effects of nutrients are sensed. Ratswith intragastric (IG) catheters drank saccharin-sweetened, calorically-dilute solutions with distinct flavors added, accompanied by IG infusion of glucose (+sessions) or water (−sessions). In both types of sessions, an “Early” flavorwas provided for the first 8 min and a “Late” flavor for the last 8 min. Thus, rats were trained with Early(+) and Late(+) in high-caloriemeals, and Early(−) and Late(−) in low-calorie meals. Strength of the learned preference for Early(+) and Late(+) was then assessed in a series of two-bottle choice tests between Early(+) vs. Early(−), Late(+) vs. Late(−), Early(+) vs. Late(+), and Early(−) vs. Late(−). Rats preferred both Early(+) and Late(+) over the respective (−) flavors. But Early(+)was only preferredwhen rats were tested hungry. Late(+) was preferred when rats were tested hungry or recently satiated. This indicates qualitatively different associations learned about flavors at different points in themeal.While not supporting the idea that postingestive effects become most strongly associated with later-occurring (“dessert”) flavors, it does suggest a reason dessert flavors may remain attractive in the absence of hunger.