Ever seen the map of the tongue that shows you what part tastes sweet stuff and where you taste sour? Well, forget everything you learned in school because it’s not the case. It is a theory that has been debunked by scientists for quite some time now. It was said that we taste sweet at the tip of our tongue, umami in the middle, salty and sour at the sides and bitter right at the back. Forget it!
Our tongues actually have taste receptors all over the place. So, where did the map idea come from? Back in 1901, a German scientist called David Hanig wanted to measure taste perception around the edge of the tongue. He placed small droplets of different tastes onto different areas of the tongue and that is why the idea stuck that it’s the areas that registered strongly that were responsible for picking up that taste.
The fact is, the tip and edges of the tongue are very sensitive to flavour as this is where the tiny taste buds are located. While Hanig did find some variation in intensity, with some areas of the tongue having a lower threshold for receiving certain flavours, these differences were very small.
Ever since Hanig’s rough drawings and questionable findings, scientists have refuted his claims. Experiments since have shown that all areas that contain taste buds – parts of the tongue, the roof of your mouth and even the throat – can all pick up taste sensations.
Evidence shows that isn’t one single region of the tongue that carries that taste message to the brain. Two cranial nerves handle taste perception in the tongue – the chorda tympani, part of the frontal facial nerve and the glossopharyngeal nerve at the back. If one of these were damaged then an individual would lose all ability to taste either sweet or bitter things but this simply doesn’t happen. Get some flavour in your food and check out the food recipes at http://food-tales.com/
It is now clear that every receptor type, for picking up sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami are found in all taste areas of the mouth. You can even hold your own experiment by making a coffee, tasting a salty peanut or eating a chocolate biscuit – your tongue will surprise you with its ability to taste these different things from all over.
Here are some interesting facts about taste buds:
- Taste buds are found in small bumps called papillae and have tiny microscopic hairs on them called microvilli. These are the things that send the taste messages to your brain.
- Butterflies also have taste buds – in their mouths and on their feet!
- On average, everyone has around 10,000 taste buds which get replaced roughly every two weeks.
- As we get older, not all our lost taste buds get replaced and an older person might only have half that amount actually working. Your sense of taste therefore deteriorates as you age.
- Don’t forget to thank your nose for tasting all those delicious foods too. The olfactory receptors inside your nose work very closely with your taste buds to create the all-round flavour experience!