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What Is the Sense of Taste?

Your sense of taste is brought to you by more than 10,000 little taste buds on your tongue that turn eating into a pleasurable experience.

Your taste buds are on the papillae, the tiny bumps you can see on your tongue.

Each taste bud houses gustatory cells that handle tasting chores. Food particles flow into the taste bud and the cells go to work. Nerve signals are sent to the brain and reach the gustatory section of the sensory cortex, the so-called taste center.

In this taste center, the brain discerns whether a food tastes good or bad. Your nose plays an extremely important role in the sense of taste. In the upper reaches of your nose, special cells help you smell. Chewing food sends chemicals to the special nose cells and they send signals to your brain. Nasal congestion may diminish the sense of taste, and a profound inability to smell may essentially obliterate the sense of taste.

Taste buds are located on the tongue, palate (roof of the mouth) and oropharynx (lining of the throat). They are responsible for bringing about sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and metallic sensations.

Over time, your taste preferences can change, although scientists aren't sure why. And as you age, some taste buds don't get replaced, so that an older adult may have only half the number of taste buds that a younger person has.