How do taste buds detect taste?
Taste buds have very sensitive microscopic hairs called microvilli (say: mye-kro-VILL-eye). Those tiny hairs send messages to the brain about how something tastes, so you know if it's sweet, sour, bitter, or salty. The average person has about 10,000 taste buds and they're replaced every 2 weeks or so.
You might know the map: The taste buds for "sweet" are on the tip of the tongue; the "salt" taste buds are on either side of the front of the tongue; "sour" taste buds are behind this; and "bitter" taste buds are way in the back.
- Scientists describe seven basic tastes: bitter, salty, sour, astringent, sweet, pungent (eg chili), and umami. There are however five basic tastes that the tongue is sensitive to: salt, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami, the taste of MSG.
- Taste buds contain the taste receptor cells, which are also known as gustatory cells. The taste receptors are located around the small structures known as papillae found on the upper surface of the tongue, soft palate, upper esophagus, the cheek and epiglottis.
- Five basic tastes are recognized today: 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.
Updated: 2nd October 2019