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Name: Jonathan J Hoch
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Question:
How do taste receptors work? To be more specific, what is the chemical reaction involved in tasting sugar?



Replies:
Sugar is sweet because when our tongue detects a sugar molecule the nervous impulse it sends says "sweet". Our tongue detects the sugar molecule by its shape. The shape fits into a little groove or pit in the tongues surface, and when this pit is filled it causes the nerve to fire and send a message to the brain that says "sweet". A lot of money has been spent developing new molecules that will cause fit in the little pits and thus tastes sweet, but not be igestible and so have no calories. Nutrasweet, for instance. However, scientists have been studying the reasons why the nerve impulse means "sweet" instead of "salty" or "Yucky" , and I am not sure that they have a definitive answer, and if they did, whether we would understand it!

Stacie


Stacy,

Great Answer! Most of our sensation is due to the wiring between the sensory organ and the brain. Perception on the other hand (end of Stacey's answer) is carried on by associative areas of the brain and is very complex. For instance taste + smell = flavor, a derived sense. This is far more complex than either of the separate senses and this is the simplest example I can think of. Lots to learn here!

Lou Harnisch



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