Bite into your favorite food, and immediately your sense of taste is activated. But just how does this amazing process work?
Your tongue –as well as other parts of your mouth and throat –includes clusters of skin cells called taste buds. Many are located within papillae on the surface of the tongue. A taste bud contains up to a hundred receptor cells, each of which can detect one of four types of taste –sour, salty, sweet, or bitter. Spicy is in a different category altogether. Spices stimulate pain receptors –not taste buds. In any event, taste-receptor cells are connected to sensory nerves that, when stimulated by chemicals in food, instantly transmit signals to the lower brain stem.
Taste, however, involves more than your mouth. The five million odor receptors in your nose –which allow you to detect some 10,000 unique odors –play a vital role in the tasting process. It has been estimated that about 75 percent of what we call taste is actually the result of what we smell.
Scientists have developed an electrochemical nose that uses chemicals gas sensors as an artificial olfaction device. Nevertheless, neurophysiologist John Kauer, quoted in Research/Penn State, notes: Any artificial device is going to be extremely simplistic in comparison to the biology, which is wonderfully elegant and sophisticated.
No one would deny that the sense of taste adds pleasure to a meal. Researchers are still baffled, though, by what causes people to favor one type of taste over another. Science may have many of the basics of the human body down, “says Science Daily, “but our sense of taste and smell are still somewhat of a misery