popsci.com - 10 days ago
We finally know how your tongue tells your brain what you're tasting
What makes candy taste sweet and coffee taste bitter, and not the other way around?
In a study published this week in Nature, researchers identified the secret ingredient that keeps our tastes distinct. We already knew two parts of the taste equation: taste-receptor cells on the tongue—which actually interact with your food—and the neurons that tell the brain what it’s tasting. Each taste-receptor cell can only respond to one taste (sweet, bitter, sour, salty or umami—a savory taste), and neurons are just as specific. The brain interprets signals from each group of neurons as a different taste. But scientists hadn't been able figure out how, when you eat ice cream, the sweet taste-receptor cells selectively activate the "sweet neurons." It’s a tricky question because taste-receptor cells get replaced every 5-20 days. So whatever links the cells and neurons has to be targeted enough to reconnect every week or two when your body generates new taste-receptor cells.
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