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Why does the tongue discriminate flavors?

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The tongue consists of the transverse muscles and the lingual mucosa. Its anterior part is the tongue body, which is mainly innervated by the trigeminal nerve; the posterior part is the tongue root, which is innervated by the pharyngeal nerve. On the surface and sides of the tongue, there are many small protruding papillae. The papillae are surrounded by taste receptors, or “taste buds”. Why is it called “taste buds”? Because these individuals look like flower buds. The secret of the tongue’s ability to distinguish flavors lies in the “taste buds”.

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Taste buds are oval-shaped, with a layer of cover cells outside and elongated taste cells inside. Each taste bud has about 10 to 12 taste cells, and all have a small taste hole. The taste cells are terminated by taste hairs, each of which extends to the mouth of the taste pore and is specifically used to identify the taste of food. The sensory nerve endings of the “taste buds”, once sensed, are like wires that transmit the excitement of the taste cells to the taste center in the brain, thus identifying sweet, sour, bitter and salty tastes.

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Taste buds in different parts of the tongue have different taste receptors and different sensitive areas for different stimuli. Why is there a difference? This is mainly due to the different protein composition of the taste buds, which results in different binding compounds.

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For humans, the taste buds on the back half of the two sides of the tongue, which prefer to have an affinity with hydrogen ions, are the most sensitive to sour tastes; the taste buds on the tip of the tongue and the front half of the two sides of the tongue, which prefer to have an affinity with chloride ions, are the most sensitive to salty tastes; while the taste buds at the root of the tongue are sensitive to bitter tastes; the taste buds at the tip of the tongue can perceive sweet, salty and sour tastes, but favor sweet tastes. In addition to taste buds, the tongue and mouth have a large number of tactile receptors and temperature receptors. Within the central nervous system, together with olfactory involvement, a wide variety of compound sensations can be produced. This is how taste buds work, each in its own way and working together.

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