Myth or Fact? #30 - Your tongue is mapped into different areas of taste

in science •  2 years ago 

Welcome my dear Steemian friends to a new episode of Myth or Fact! A series in which we will show that some common believes are myths while others turn out to be true.

It is widely known that our tongue has different areas of taste. Traditionally those tastes are sour, salty, sweet and bitter. In addition to these there is also the taste of umami and fat but more on that later. This notion suggests that what you will taste surely depends on where your food gets in touch with your tongue. If you were to put a bonbon on the wrong spot of your tongue you most likely wont taste anything, in theory. But is this saying true? It is scientifically proven that our tongue is mapped into different areas of tastes?

We will find out

The five main tastes

Fig.1 Zones of taste. Credits

Depending on what we consume we can differentiate between five main tastes:

  • Salty
  • Sour
  • Sweet
  • Bitter
  • Umami

The following figure shows the taste areas of our tongue. We instinctively will agree on that and accept it as a fact. However this just another common misconception. Looking at your tongue you will see small bumps on it, called papillae. These papillae contain taste buds. The senses of taste is transmitted by these taste buds which contain about 50 to 100 receptor cells each. Most of these receptor cells that cause the sensation of taste are located on the tongue.

We have papillae that cover the whole tongue and each taste bud can perceive all five tastes! However, the threshold to perceive the individual taste varies within our tongue. A threshold has to be exceeded in order for a taste to be perceived. Each flavor has its specific taste receptor within the taste buds and each type of taste receptor is activated differently. We will now have a look at the specific taste receptors and how they are activated.

If you want to know more about how the taste buds work I suggest you to read my article Life Explorers - The Human Senses Part IV: Taste.

We have two different kinds of receptors here: Ion receptors and G-protein coupled receptors. Salty and sour taste work with ion receptors whereas sweet, umami and bitter taste work with G-protein receptors (GPRCs)

Salty and Sour

Table salt (NaCl), ammonium chloride (NH4CL), magnesium chloride (MgCl2) and sodium fluoride (NaF) for instance are responsible for the sensation of a salty taste. To understand how the signal transmission works I recommend to read my last Life Explorers article about the sense of touch. The sodium cations cause the cell membrane to depolarize. This leads to release of Ca2+ Ions which in turn releases neurotransmitters. By doing so the neurotransmitters are redirecting the action potential trough the nerve paths to the brain.

The higher the concentration of salt is the more intense the actual taste.

Fig.7 Grid structure of salt. Credits

The same happens when we taste sour. Sour is caused by protons. These protons block the ion channel which in turn depolarizes the membrane and releases Ca2+ cations.

Sweet, Bitter and Umami

Fig.8 Chemical formula of Glucose. Credits

Glucose, sucrose, sweeteners etc. bind on specific receptors which in turn activates GPRCs. These lead again to a depolarization of the cell and releasing Ca2+ cations. The release of Ca2+ cations is the reason that the nervous signal is transmitted by neurotransmitters.

The same process is happening for bitter and umami tasts. Umami is a taste of glutamate, aspartate etc. binding to the certain recptors. Bitter is the result of bitter-tasting compounds binding to GRPCs.

Fig.9 Chemical formula of bitter compounds. Credits

Where does the myth come from?

In the year 1901 the German scientist David P Hänig published his research on how sensitiv to certain tastes the different areas on the tongue are. He measured the threshold of the certain receptors and then presented his work to other scientists. His results were that certain areas are more sensitive to specific tastes than others. It never said that certain areas only register specific tastes. The problem was the way he presented his results, it led to confusion.

Make a simple test! Take some salt and put it at the end of your tongue. You will certainly taste the salt, in fact you will taste the salt on every part of your tongue. However at the sides of your tongue the sensation will be most intense.

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Thanks for reading this episode of Myth or Fact! If you enjoyed it feel free to resteem and leave a comment! I would love to know what you think about todays episode!

Do you love photography? Then I hope you didn't miss my recent TimTravels Episode where I went to Paris. You can see it here TimTravels - La Ville Lumière: Paris


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Don't know about the salty, sour, umami and bitter parts of my tongue but I definitely have a very strong sweet spot.
I always thought that my sweet part of the tongue was stronger than others.
Thanks for sharing, it's a very informational read.

Hello @timsaid,

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All the best @timsaid!

Great! I will give him a vote

Thanks a lot @timsaid


Interesting article. Always learning new things.

yeah right!

Hi @timsaid I've written an article about you check it out if you can thanks.

15 Best Travel Bloggers To Follow On Steemit If You Want To Explore The World

Did not know that

I agree with you and appreciate the hard work of author.

Super interesting article! thanks for sharing!
Gotta admit I googled umami!

Great article! When I was a kid I used to make that experiment of taste, when I first learned about it in school :D

A lot of taste has to do with smell too. I had read in the past they are connected in some way with how we perceive taste and smell. Scents not only get pickup breathing in, but on the way out your nose too. When you're nose is clogged, things have a more muted taste.

Thank you @timsaid for another great topic with lots of complicated science jargon to melt our brains mixed in.

In fact, most of the flavor is perceived through the olfactory system. Loss of the file olfactory or other neurons in the pathway due to head trauma or neurodegenerative disease may result in loss of the smelling sense, which in turn reduces the flavor of all foods to the above mentioned basic tastes.
No vanilla, no rosemary, no smoky flavor of your grilled whatever or your favorite whiskey ... you get the point.

Our bodies are definitely complicated and amazing living machines.

1 hour.... wait a minute - did you just drop a post on us and run without engaging the masses in the witty banter we enjoy so much? @timsaid

I was sleeping :) 5:30 AM here and I just woke up lol. Going to reply on all comments once I am awake.

Oh sure, playing the 'ol other side of the planet card. :-)

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

I will say true and will also say that you are doing a great job here @timsaid with all your posts and am glad that am following you. Keep steeming buddy and more success

i've got tastes only for sweets... what can i do..

dude lol i was passing through and seen this, interesting

Congratulations @timsaid!
Your post was mentioned in my hit parade in the following category:

  • Pending payout - Ranked 9 with $ 887,99

Something like this happen with the areas of the brain. Great article.

Yeah the myth that we use only 20%? of our brains. When in reality we use every part of our brain when we need it.

The tongue is an amazing thing.... here's my favorite pickup line I use.... "Excuse me, Ma'am... ma'am? I have a tongue to flick with you..."

This post received a 0.7% upvote from @randowhale thanks to @buzzbeergeek! For more information, click here!

i really enjoy the TimTravels Episode i hope you will always be here for us, you are bless for our time ((:

The level of breakdown. You're doing like an amazing job on this network man! Like WO! We going bio on this one though ;) Thanks for sharing great information. Certainly a conversation starter. Cheers!


Very nice post!


great post, it's just an other myth, the areas represent different levels of sensentivity to a certain taste that's all !


That's interesting - that with Salt, one can experience a more intense sensation at the sides of the tongue !

Well written post - some people may be surprised to learn about the papillae. The Author suggests you EXPLORE MORE by reading his article here : >>

Fun experiment to try - just recall to put the salt @ end of your tongue.

Wow!! It's official, I have learned something today. Awesome article!!!

This post is making me salivate.
But let's save Pavlov for another time :P
Nice article!

Those 5 tastes are how I describe how beer tastes actually! Excellent one, and thank you for the support!

Great post man. I remember in school they gave me this slip of paper, and some people couldn't taste anything and some people could.... It sucks that i couldn't taste anything :P

I always wondered about that! :)

I knew it. I read about it in 12 th standard but still there are many people whole believe in that myth. Thanx for sharing.

Very informative. I myself grew up with this idea that there are areas in the language for specific tastes.

And what about their links to the organs like in TCM ?

I am starting to feel like, everything I have ever learned in my youth is incorrect...

Fact is known from school, but I never get explanations about.

thank you

nice post @timsaid, pleas visiting me @marzukibrain,thanks
upvote and resteem

i only like sweets though. so is my sweet area bigger?

Great post and great research....time to test it out and lick random things around the house :P

This makes me want to question EVERYTHING. I'm thinking now... what things do I know "as fact" that I've just accepted since I was younger, yet they're untrue. Goodness! Is the sky even blue?

Andddd just like that I was proven wrong... well at least I know now haha

Indeed, I've heard about the tastes on the tongue but I thought it was just on the spot where u put it that you taste it, I didn't know that you could taste it all over your tongue. Nice post by the way keep it up !

Great post we used to learn this in the school.

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

its a myth

Interesting post...when I was a kid I used to believe the watermelon or any seeds germinating in my tummy. LOL

Funny that most of the things that were taught in school are no longer true. I enjoyed your post Tim. You did a great job!

Yeah - and they took Pluto away from us too damn it!

im new on here and already astonished about how good some atricles are! Yours included! Thanks a lot for investing the time to post such quality content.

Interesting post. I was so surprised to see how salty soda tasted.

What a read... I learnt something new "umami"...
Will be trying to bust the myth on that one...
Love this post as it is educational
Thanks for sharing...upboted as always...keep it up as I expect more ...

Great job, great article!👌

Very interesting post!

I enjoy reading your posts, very informative. by the way I would highly appreciate if anyone can give an upvote or comment to my article

I think its not totaly true in my opinion and observation/experiment if you put some sweet substance on the inner part of your tongue the area said to be responsible for the umami taste you will find that you still feel the sweet taste so i still do not agree with the whole idea.

Informative! And I feel better sweets...)

I will say true and will also say that you are doing a great job here with all your posts and am glad that am following you.

Im going to say....true....but I have a feeling this post will prove me wrong...

We've tackle that in our science class wayback on my 6th grade @timsaid but not detailed as this one. More on you sir..

Im newbie here and I want to share my firstpost.

Thank you if you like it !

i think its true just taking a wild guess

Hi I have written an article about the best resources for the images to use in steem story for free . would you like see it .
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Oh i will definitely try the test later. After work. :)
Very informative posts! Keep it up @timsaid! Keep on Steemin'! ヽ(´ー`)ノ

This is fascinating! Very interesting to read. :)

Great post! Until today I always believed the myth! Learning every day!


I remembered my science teachers back in elementary with this post. Brings back memories.

Nice Article

Wow this is so interesting! And a handy fact to know when developing recipes and combining different flavours :)

Oh cool! I always believed the myth. How about as we age? Do our sensitivities to certain tastes change? Because I remember as an infant my son eating hot salsa and loving it and I thought at the time, "Maybe he hasn't developed the ability to sense that spice."

Really happy to find some science stuff on here. I'm (obviously) not very well versed myself but I do find it fascinating. Following and looking forward to more!

Who would have thought you can "learn" how to eat for certain effects?? Great news! Thanks for the info @timsaid <3

Like your scientific articles. Easy to read, informative and interesting. You know how to blog, I'can learn from your way big time. Keep on Steemin'!

You are breaking way too many myths Timsaid! The medieval society won't like this!!!

I love your Myth or Fact Blog Series. They are great. They are informative and are entertaining.

Thanks @timsaid. I am one of your fans who reads some of your comments and posts and following you. I don't want to get flagged here, but whenever I lick a tilc with the tip of my tongue it never tastes sweet, but always bittery sour. I would just like to know if my taste buds are mutated or connected up wrong, or if others can confirm this. Can anyone explain?

Hey! Thanks for your comment. I don't know what might be cause for that. You should ask a real doctor

Nooo, it's not worth it. Try for yourself and tell me if I am right. Thanks buddy.

Learned something nice article followed

My taste buds are out of wack. If i eat pickles or even fruit, the first bite could be super sour for about 5 seconds. My taste buds even warn me beforehand. Does anyone else have this rare problem?

I knew that it was false, but I didn't know all. Thanks for your explanations. :)

Thanks, now I can't get rid of the salty taste in my mouth !

Super interesting! My favourite taste is sweet :)

gotta love sugar ! haha

HAHAHA, interesting. I remember myself in high school when they told me things, and then try to eat stuff on different parts of my tongue to check if they were right. I personally don't really feel the difference, but okay ;)

Such a creative post! Love to learn new things!

Such a lot to know about tongue, wow i just thought it was just something simple, its complex indeed haha. Anyway thanks for sharing.

Very infromative post keep sharing thumbs up :D

Yes, I learned when I was a med. student. Awesome post!

Great post, very informative! Thank you, I will be following and watching for more! @jbcoin

Interesting article. I didn't know this before reading this article. Keep it up the good work and keep sharing knowledge.

OMG! My school life was a big lie :(

Thanks for clearing this up for me now I can sound smart if this ever come up in conversation

Just joined steem and I have found someone worth following, keep up the good work.

Interesting. Blowing the minds of grade schoolers everywhere ;)

Extremely interesting,I'm off to find out.

I think 4/5ths of my tongue is dedicated to the sweet buds

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

You've made a great article sir Tim. And i thank you for that!

when i was a kid i tried to put food items on that tongue spot and try to feel what it taste like but it didn't work it was a myth.

My 6 year old kid and his classmates experimented this exactly with different sorts of food. They were amazed to discover that depending on where on the tongue you put the food you can taste it or not!

Haha is it weird that I'm checking my tongue while reading this blog 🤣😋

I always learning new things on Steem.


That's awesome

Wanne taste in real 😚, then Im convinced 😜


Tongue is power.

Definitely true.....

I guess..😅

I wish you a happy day

I think the brain has something to do Salty, Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Umami etc. Thanks for sharing

The best about the tongues is a cat tongue :D
Thank You timsaid !

Have a nice day
@kam.ila !

I think there is no myth but just a minor problem of miscommunication. The tongue is mapped according to the High SENSITIVITY Zones of the tastes and it's a common knowledge with one's own experience that it DOES NOT mean that a particular taste is registered only in its sensitive zone. This post actually clarifies this misconception very well.

Hi I have written an article about the best resources for the images to use in steem story for free . would you like see it .
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Your posts are awesome, I love it, says happy to read and can understand the post you share, very meaningful for my life,, @samsuel