Aging profoundly delays functional recovery from gustatory nerve injury

L. He, A. Yadgarov, S. Sharif, L. P. McCluskey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The peripheral taste system remains plastic during adulthood. Sectioning the chorda tympani (CT) nerve, which sends sensory information from the anterior tongue to the central nervous system, causes degeneration of distal fibers and target taste buds. However, taste function is restored after about 40 days in young adult rodents. We tested whether aging impacts the reappearance of neural responses after unilateral CT nerve injury. Taste bud regeneration was minimal at day 50-65 after denervation, and most aged animals died before functional recovery could be assessed. A subset (n=3/5) of old rats exhibited normal CT responses at day 85 postsectioning, suggesting the potential for efficient recovery. The aged taste system is fairly resilient to sensory receptor loss and major functional changes in normal aging. However, injury to the taste system reveals a surprising vulnerability in old rodents. The gustatory system provides an excellent model to study mechanisms underlying delayed recovery from peripheral nerve injury. Strategies to accelerate recovery and restore normal function will be of interest, as the elderly population continues to grow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-218
Number of pages11
StatePublished - May 3 2012


  • Chorda tympani nerve
  • Neural-immune interactions
  • Plasticity
  • Sensory
  • Taste bud
  • Taste receptor cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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