Tasting and the Brain

Len Fisher

A recent paper in Nature (LINK to article) tells us for the first time how taste sensations on the tongue are transmitted to the brain. It turns out that, just as there are dedicated receptor cells on the tongue and palate for each of the five basic tastes, so there are specific ganglions (analogous to the different wires in a telephone exchange) tuned to each of these tastes, and responsible for conveying the message about their presence from the receptors to the brain. One practical upshot (on the assumption that human brains react similarly to the mouse brains that were studied) is that our response to taste mixes should largely reflect the sum of the responses to the individual tastants.

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