Why you cannot taste anything without saliva?

Have you tried drying your tongue using a towel and closing your eyes and putting unknown dry food on your tongue? What happened? You cannot taste anything! Watch to find out why this is the case! #STEMvee

***A special thank you to a fellow Deaf STEMist for pointing out that the “famous” tongue map has been debunked and we have revised our video to reflect the most up-to-date information on taste buds. This is a wonderful example of why it is important for our community to support and work together to keep ourselves educated on the latest information in STEM fields!

[Video Description: Barbara, a white woman wearing a forest green tank top, is sitting in the foreground and the background has a window in the center and few plants on the left and right sides.

4:16 – A full screen image: This video is sponsored by RIT/NTID Regional STEM Center. Below is a logo of RIT on the left with National Technical Institute for the Deaf on the right.]

Transcript: Have you tried drying your tongue using a towel and closing your eyes and putting unknown dry food on your tongue? What happened? You cannot taste anything! But what if you take a sip of water and try again? You now can taste the food! Why is this happening? If we want food to have taste, chemicals from the food must first dissolve in a liquid of some sort (saliva, water, etc.). Once dissolved, the chemicals can bind to receptors on taste buds and send the information to our brain to interpret. Therefore, if there is no saliva, we will not be able to taste anything. On our tongue, we have separate receptors for different tastes, such as sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (savory). Do you remember seeing these five classes of receptors mapped on what we know as a tongue map? Turns out it has been found wrong or debunked. In the past we believed the tongue map to be true, but with continuing research, scientists have found that the map is more complicated than they realized. What was the old belief? Where are these receptors located exactly? The sweet-detecting receptors are grouped near the tip of our tongue, with the salt-detecting taste buds beyond them, the sour-tasting receptors along the sides of our tongue, the bitter buds near the back of the tongue, and the umami (savory)-detecting receptors all over our tongue. The information I just shared — it is not exactly correct. The current evidence shows that the receptors are located all over our tongue with no clear boundaries. These receptors are present on the tongue in different amounts and location, thus why we may see increased sensitivity to certain tastes in certain areas. What about smell? Is it connected with taste? Yes! Our sense of smell is responsible for about 80% of what we taste. If our noses are blocked like from a cold… Without smell, we are left to rely on only five tastes, which can be bland or unpleasant on their own. So… when it comes to tasting our food, it’s a combination of taste and smell that gives us what we know as flavor. Vee, right?!



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