New Findings about Your Tongue’s Ability to Taste

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. taste bud / teɪst bʌd / (n) – a cell found on the tongue that provides the sense of taste

    Our taste buds enable us to recognize different flavors.

  2. discern / dɪˈsɜrn / (v) – to recognize or become aware of something

    Tech developers created software that can discern fake news.

  3. subset / ˈsʌbˌsɛt / (n) – a group of similar numbers, objects, or people that is included in another, bigger set

    A subset of the school population took the survey.

  4. rodent / ˈroʊd nt / (n) – a small animal characterized by having sharp front teeth

    I screamed when I saw a rodent on my bedroom floor.

  5. imply / ɪmˈplaɪ / (v) – to indirectly suggest something

    The finance report implies that the company is doing well.


Read the text below.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo discovered taste bud cells capable of discerning multiple flavors at the same time.

The researchers found that the newly discovered subset of taste bud cells can simultaneously identify four different taste stimuli—sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. According to them, their study challenges the current belief that taste bud cells are highly selective and can recognize only one or two specific types of flavors.

For the study, the researchers conducted an experiment using genetically modified mice. They isolated taste cells from the mice’s tongues and examined how information about taste travels from the tongue to the brain. After isolating the rodents’ taste cells and exposing them to different substances, the researchers noticed a group of cells that could detect multiple flavors.

The team also found that when these newly discovered cells were inactivated, the mice had difficulty identifying bitter, sweet, and umami flavors even when selective taste bud cells were present. This finding suggests that two types of taste bud cells are needed to fully recognize all flavors: one that can sense multiple flavors and another that reacts only to specific flavors.

According to the researchers, the study’s findings imply that taste buds are far more complicated than what scientists originally thought. They added that further experiments will focus on the newly discovered subset of taste bud cells, particularly on how these cells recognize flavors.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you agree that taste buds are far more complicated than what scientists originally thought? Why or why not?
• Apart from taste buds, what aspects of flavors would you like scientists to study (e.g. how flavors can affect mood)? Why?

Discussion B

• What other parts of the human body do you think have far more complicated functions than we currently know (e.g. ears, brain)? Discuss.
• Do you think it is important to learn about the unknown functions of human body parts? Why or why not?