Previous studies have reported that the umami taste of monosodium l-glutamate (MSG) and salty-smelling odors (e.g., soy sauce, bacon, sardines) enhance the perception of saltiness. This study aimed to investigate the neural basis of the enhancement of saltiness in human participants using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). University students who had passed a taste panel test participated in this study. Sodium chloride solutions were presented with or without either 0.10% MSG or the odor of soy sauce. The participants were asked to drink a cup of the stimulus and to evaluate only saltiness intensity in Experiment 1, as well as other sensory qualities in Experiment 2, and temporal brain activity was measured using fNIRS. In Experiment 3, the participants were asked to evaluate saltiness intensity using the time-intensity (TI) method, and the response of the parotid salivary glands was measured using fNIRS. The fNIRS data showed that the added MSG and soy sauce enhanced the hemodynamic response in temporal brain regions, including the frontal operculum, but no effect on the hemodynamic salivary responses was detected. These results indicate that the perceived enhancement of saltiness occurs in the brain region that is involved in central gustatory processing. Furthermore, the results of the sensory evaluations suggest that enhancement of saltiness by the addition of MSG is mainly based on fusion of the salty-like property of MSG and saltiness of NaCl, whereas enhancement by the addition of soy sauce odor is mainly based on modulation of the temporal dynamics of saltiness perception.

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