Secrets of the sense of taste in the brain
Dr. Yasser bin Mohammed Al-Behairi
American scientists have discovered that there are neurons in the brain for each of the five taste categories: salty, bitter, sour, sweet, and what is known as “umami.”
The study, published in the journal Nature, would resolve a years-long dispute about how the brain perceives taste.
The scientific team from Columbia University showed that different taste sensors in the tongue have a similar counterpart in the brain.
According to the BBC website, scientists expressed their hope that the results of the study would help overcome the loss of taste sensation in the elderly.
It is a misconception that one tastes sweet taste with the tip of the tongue only.
Each unit of taste receptors, spread across the tongue and numbering about 8,000, has the ability to sense all taste categories.
But the specialized cells within each of these receptors are tailored to one of the taste categories; Either salty, bitter, sour, sweet or umami.
When these cells detect the signal, they send a message to the brain. But how the brain processes data is still under debate.
The Columbia University research team prepared a number of mice so that their taste neurons flashed when they were active.
The team then looked at the neurons deep at their base in the brain.
The mice were fed chemicals to trigger a response on the tongue to saltiness, bitterness, sourness, sweetness or umami, and the researchers then monitored the change in the brain.
The medical team observed a “close” connection between the tongue and the brain.