A Matter of Taste (and Smell): Special Report from the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences Reviews Latest Research in Chemoreception


Do chemical cues actually regulate social behavior? How does our brain distinguish between different tastes? Why do men and women experience the sense of smell differently? Can the obesity epidemic be blamed on our love of the taste of fat? Chemoreception Scientists explore these and other provocative questions. Authored by AChemS President Donald A. Wilson of New York University, and colleagues, the report highlights both basic and applied research in the chemical senses, emphasizing “central and peripheral processing of gustatory, olfactory, pheromonal, and common chemical stimuli, such as irritants.” It focused on the “growing importance of understanding chemical senses in the identification, treatment, or prevention of health-related issues, such as obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.” Other research on genes and behavior in rodents and humans provides intriguing support for the idea that fat, “specifically free fatty acid, can activate the gustatory system.” This is consistent with the conclusion that along with the tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (detection of the carboxylate anion of glutamic acid), there might be a “taste of fat.” Such work challenges “the longstanding notion that pure fat was tasteless and that its only salient cue was its texture.”For more information on Chemoreception visit: http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/chemweek/Odors/chemorec.html