miércoles, 6 de abril de 2011

Taste and smell

Taste is one of the two main chemical senses, the other being smell. There are at least four types of taste receptors on the tongue. Taste stimuli from each receptor type send information to a different region of the brain. The four well-known receptors detect sweet, salt, sour, and bitter and they are located in different areas of the tongue (figure). The existence of a fifth receptor, for a sensation called umami, was confirmed in 2000. The umami receptor detects the amino acid glutamate, which causes a savory, “meaty” flavor in foods. The chemoreceptors of the mouth are the taste cells that are found in bundles called taste buds. The compounds bind to receptors in the taste cells and stimulate neurons in the taste buds. Then, these neurons start nerve impulse which alerts the brain.The tongue can also feel sensations that are not generally called tastes. These include: temperature (hot or cold), coolness (as in “minty” or “fresh”), spiciness or hotness (peppery), and fattiness (greasy). If you click here you will view an animation of how we taste. Smell is the other "chemical" sense. The chemoreceptors of smell are called olfactory receptors. About 40 million olfactory receptor neurons line the nasal passages. Different odor molecules bind to and excite specific olfactory receptors. The combination of excitatory signals from different receptors makes up what we identify as “smell.” The receptors stop sending stimuli very quickly. That is why we get used to smells very easily. Have you ever noticed that you cannot taste anything when your nose is stuffed up? That is because your senses of smell and taste are closely linked. Your olfactory receptors and taste receptors both contribute to the flavor of food. Your tongue can only tell among a few different types of taste, while your nose can distinguish among hundreds of smells, even if only in tiny amounts.

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