The process of tasting food goes far beyond mere swabs of the tongue or a palette. Taste is actually one aspect of human perception of taste. In fact, the taste is one of the simplest ways of understanding the food and its physiological processes. Taste, in essence, is merely an aspect of perception of flavour.
Taste is actually one of the most complex aspects of our sensory system, and it is not solely related to the sense of taste. Taste, in fact, stems directly from the combined feelings of the five senses: sight, smell, touch, and taste. In all cases, there is an integration of these sensations which produces the subjective experience of flavour, texture and flavour (commonly referred to as the “flavours” of foods). This five-sense integration is closely tied to the five-layer model of sensory processing, where each perception feeds into the next.
Each of the five layers can be affected by our experiences during the life-time. For example, while sleeping, the taste buds, which are located in the back of the tongue and at the back of the mouth become inactive. As a consequence, their presence in the brain is not essential for the taking of a taste. In fact, the food we eat, the environment we live in and the hormonal activity of our body, all of these factors can alter the level of activation of the taste buds, making the sweet, bitter and salty taste qualities of foods different.
Sweet taste, bitter taste and saltiness are the most prominent of the five tastes. There are many categories of tastes with their own individual characteristics, such as sweet, bitter, salty and sour. In addition, there are many combinations of taste qualities, such as sweet, salty and sour. Taste buds are stimulated only when the receptors come into contact with a specific combination of taste elements, and they become excited only if they receive signals from at least two of these taste components.
To test for the existence of a genetic predisposition, geneticists carry out DNA extraction from relatives who are carriers of the disease. When this DNA is extracted from the saliva of an individual, the results can indicate whether that person is prone to develop a certain type of disease. Different types of diseases have different genetic sequences, which enable us to test for the existence of such sequences by carrying out DNA extraction from relatives. After the DNA is extracted, it is tested against a set of taste thresholds. If the taste threshold is significantly higher than average, then the individual may be predisposed to develop a certain type of disease.
Sweet, salty and sour tastes are established by the tongue’s nerve cells. These nerves are active only when the food particles are in the mouth. Taste buds on the other hand receive signals from the brain, which convey to these tastes. Different tastes have different neurons that send signals to these taste buds. When the taste buds detect certain tastes, the nerves send signals to the brain that causes the brain to perceive the tastes. This study is important because it helps to determine the basis on which food reacts to individual’s bodies and not just to the sensory nerves of the tongue.