Flavour Journey: How the Tongue Perceives Taste

Ever wondered how your tongue never gets any taste wrong? Explore the taste system to find out

Estimated read time: < 5 Minutes

Sometimes I wish veggies tasted as good as dessert. So I could fool myself into eating healthy foods. Yes, that’s how far I can when it comes to food. I need something or someone to blame for my junk-eating habits. My inner goddess tells me to put the blame on the tongue—the tiny boneless thing that is the root cause of the problem. But how?

My inquisitive self probed me to research on the matter and as usual, I found some really interesting information I can’t wait to share with you. In a latest study, scientists tried to explain the mechanism of the tongue. Turns out, signals sent by the tongue’s taste cells prevent the brain from confusing between bitter and sweet tastes. Not just that, but a deeper wiring and connection between our tongue and the brain goes into play, to distinguish the sweet, bitter, sour, salty, or pungent tastes.

Each of these taste buds also contain about 50 to 100 taste cells, which have receptors that can detect, distinguish and relay taste information from the tongue to the brain in the fraction of a second, which then leads to your particular perception of the dish. Keeping this in mind, scientists rewired the taste system of mice by turning over the cells in the taste buds— to perceive sweet stimuli as bitter tastes and vice versa. The findings provide extremely interesting insights into how the tongue keeps its sense of taste in place despite the random interchange.

A scientist also stated something that’ll make you wonder how complicated that tiny tongue is— “Taste receptor cells in the tongue connect to taste neurons of the brain. It’s a highly dynamic process. Taste cells are replaced every one to three weeks, and one type of receptor may be replaced by a different type. Each time a new taste receptor cell is made, it needs to make the right connection with the brain,” he added.

The next time you like the taste of a dish, thank the whole army of taste buds, which have done their job to make sure you perceive the flavours of the dish in the intended way!


Image Credit: YouTube

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