Bitter Sweet


This image represents taste cells. A taste receptor is a type of receptor found on the tongue that mediates the sensation of taste, one of our 5 special senses. When food or other substances enter specific molecules interact with saliva and bind to the taste receptors. The purple, blue, green and pink cells represent different types of taste receptors found in a single taste bud.

The average person has about 10,000 taste buds that are replaced about every two weeks. Multiple types of taste receptors are found in a single taste buds. There are 5 basic tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami. Salty and sour taste sensations are both detected through ion channels. Sweet, bitter, and umami tastes, however, are detected by way of G protein-coupled taste receptors.

The taste cells are innervated by sensory nerves (yellow) that transmit the signals from the taste cell to the brain. The brain decodes the signals from different taste cells to provide the complex sensation of taste.

We have all seen the figures that different sensations are found on different areas of the tongue. This is a myth. The five basic tastes identified so far – salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami- can be sensed on any area of the tongue. And each taste bud contains multiple types of taste receptors so that each taste bud can sense all 5 basic tastes.


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