Discovery: People also smell their tongues

Discovery: People also smell their tongues

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How do we absorb smells?

Researchers have now found that so-called functional olfactory receptors, the sensors that recognize smells in the nose, are also present on the tongue in human taste cells. The results of the study explain how odor molecules modulate taste perception.

The current investigation by the Monell Chemical Senses Center found that olfactory receptors are also present in taste cells on the tongue. This indicates an interaction between the sense of smell and taste, which seems to start on the tongue. So far it has been assumed that the process begins in the brain. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Chemical Senses".

Do odor molecules modulate taste perception?

The current research work could explain how odor molecules modulate taste perception, the authors of the study explain. This could be used to develop odor-based taste modifiers that help combat the excess salt, sugar, and fat intake associated with nutritional diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

Characteristic taste of food through the smell?

While many people equate taste with taste through the tongue, the characteristic taste of most foods and drinks comes more from the smell than the taste, the researchers claim. The taste, which detects sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savory molecules on the tongue, acts as a kind of control mechanism to assess the nutritional value and potential toxicity of food. The smell provides detailed information about the quality of the food taste. The brain combines the input from taste, smell and other senses to create a multimodal taste experience.

Taste and smell interact

So far, taste and smell have been viewed as independent sensory systems that do not interact until their respective information reaches the brain. In the current study, the researchers developed methods to keep living human taste cells in cultures. Using genetic and biochemical methods to examine taste cell cultures, it was then determined that human taste cells contain many key molecules that are known to be present in olfactory receptors. The researchers then used a method known as calcium imaging to show that the cultivated taste cells react to odor molecules in a similar way to olfactory receptor cells.

Smell receptors play an important role in taste

Taken together, the results provide the first demonstration of functional olfactory receptors in human taste cells, suggesting that olfactory receptors can play a role in the taste system by interacting with taste receptor cells on the tongue. Other experiments by the Monell Chemical Senses Center have already shown that a single taste cell can contain both taste and smell receptors. The presence of odor receptors and taste receptors in the same cell offers exciting opportunities to study the interactions between odor and taste stimuli on the tongue, the study authors explain. In addition to insight into nature and the mechanisms of smell and taste interactions, the findings can also be an instrument to improve understanding of how we recognize smells. It is still unknown which molecules activate the vast majority of the 400 different types of functional human olfactory receptors. Because the cultured taste cells respond to odors, they could potentially be used to determine which molecules bind to specific human olfactory receptors.

More research is needed

In the future, further studies should find out whether olfactory receptors are preferentially localized on a certain taste cell type, for example on sweet or salt-detecting cells. Other studies investigate how odor molecules affect the response of taste cells and ultimately human taste perception. (as)

Author and source information

Video: We Scraped Our Tongues (June 2022).


  1. Lonnell

    something is constantly burning

  2. Gram

    I am sorry, that I interfere, but you could not give little bit more information.

  3. Gregos

    An interesting topic, I will take part. Together we can come to the right answer. I'm sure.

  4. Isam

    This topic just incomparably :), very interesting to me.

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