Study: humans can smell with their tongue

As we take in odors?

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

In the current study of the Monell Chemical Senses Center has found that olfactory receptors are also present in taste cells on the tongue. This suggests that interactions between the senses of smell and taste, which seems to begin already on the tongue. Previously it was assumed that the operation starts in the brain. The results of the study were publizert in the English journal “Chemical Senses”.

We can really on our tongue smells? (Image: fpic/

Modulate odor molecules taste perception?

The current research work could explain how odor molecules modulate the taste perception, the authors explain the study. This could be used for the development of odor-based flavor modifiers, which help to combat the excess salt, sugar and fat intake, diet-related diseases such as obesity and Diabetes.

The characteristic taste of foods by the smell?

While many people equate taste with the Taste through the tongue is equal to, the characteristic flavor of most foods and drinks more of the smell than the taste, say the researchers. The taste, the sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy molecules on the tongue can prove, act as a kind of control mechanism to evaluate the nutritional value and potential toxicity of food. The smell provides detailed information about the quality of the food taste. The brain combine senses the Input from taste, smell, and others, to create a multimodal experience of flavour.

Taste and smell interact

So far, the taste and smell were not considered as independent sensory systems that interact to their respective information, the brain. In the current study, the researchers developed methods to hold living human taste cells in culture. With genetic and biochemical methods for investigation of taste cell cultures was then determined that the human taste cells contain many of the key molecules of which it is known that they are also in olfactory receptors. The researchers-as-a-Calcium-Imaging method known to show that the cultured taste cells respond to odor molecules similar to olfactory receptor cells used then.

Olfactory receptors play an important role in the taste

The results together provide the first Demonstration of functional olfactory receptors in human taste cells, suggesting that olfactory receptors may play in the taste system, they interact with taste receptor cells on the tongue. Other experiments by the Monell Chemical Senses Center have already shown that a single taste cell may contain both taste and olfactory receptors. The presence of odor receptors and taste receptors in the same cell, which offers exciting possibilities to investigate the interactions between olfactory and taste stimuli on the tongue, explain the authors of the study. In addition to the insight into the nature and mechanisms of Taste and smell interactions, the findings can also be a tool to improve the understanding of how we detect smells. It is still not known what molecules the vast majority of the 400 different types of functional enable human olfactory receptors. Since the cultured taste cell to odors, you could be potentially used to determine which molecules bind to specific human olfactory receptors.

Further research is needed

In the future, further investigation is to find out whether olfactory receptors are preferably localized on a given Taste cell type, for example, on fresh or salt-detecting cells. Other studies investigate how odour molecules affect the response of the taste cells and, ultimately, the human taste perception. (as)