Although the “mouthwatering” to sight, smell, or thought of food is commonly accepted in food and nutrition research, the concept of mouthwatering and human salivary flow conditioning is not well accepted in salivary research. The objective of this study was to revisit whether human salivary flow could be classically conditioned to a previously neutral stimulus.


Sour candy or a non-food control in opaque containers were presented to healthy participants (n = 8). Simple images were consistently paired with container contents. Participants viewed the images for 15 s, then opened the containers and ate (candy) or did not eat (non-food control) the contents. This was repeated 14 times (7 of each stimulus). Order was semi-randomized to ensure one candy and one non-food were presented as the first two and last two stimuli. Saliva was collected with cotton dental rolls during these presentations (first two and last two) after viewing the image for 15 s, but before opening the container.


Participants were successfully conditioned to increase salivary flow in response to the image that predicted candy, as demonstrated by greater weight of saliva in response to 1) the candy-paired image than the non-food-paired image, and 2) the candy-paired image at the end of the first visit compared with the beginning (when the image had no meaning). However, the effect was attenuated during the second visit.


We demonstrate classical conditioning of human salivary flow is achievable, but the effect may not persist to a second visit.


This is the author copy of an accepted manuscript, posted to the Purdue University Repository after a 12 month embargo as permitted by Archives of Oral Biology. The published copy can be found at:

Conditioning of human salivary flow using a visual cue for sour candy JC Kershaw, CA Running Archives of oral biology 92, 90-95 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archoralbio.2018.05.010


Saliva, Conditioning, Sour taste

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