The gustatory system creates the human sense of taste, allowing us to perceive different flavors from substances that we consume as food and drink. Gustation, along with olfaction (the sense of smell), is classified as chemoreception. Because it functions by reacting with molecular chemical compounds in a given substance. Specialized cells in the gustatory system that are located on the tongue are called taste buds, and they sense tastants (taste molecules). The taste buds send the information after coming in contact with food from the tastants to the brain, where a molecule is processed as a certain taste. There are five main tastes: bitter, salty, sweet, sour, and umami (savory). All the varieties of flavor we experience are a combination of some or all of these tastes.
The sense of taste is transduced by taste buds. Which are clusters of 50-100 taste receptor cells located in the tongue, soft palate, epiglottis, pharynx, and esophagus. The tongue is the main sensory organ of the gustatory system. The tongue contains papillae, or specialized epithelial cells, which have taste buds on their surface. There are three types of papillae with taste buds in the human gustatory system:
- fungiform papillae, which are mushroom-shaped and located at the tip of the tongue;
- foliate papillae, which are ridges and grooves toward the back of the tongue;
- circumvallate papillae, which are circular-shaped and located in a row just in front of the end of the tongue.
You can’t taste food unless it’s mixed with your saliva
Each taste bud is flask-like in shape and formed by two types of cells: supporting cells and gustatory cells. Gustatory cells are short-lived and are continuously regenerating. They each contain a taste pore at the surface of the tongue which is the site of sensory transduction. Though there are small differences in sensation, all taste buds, no matter their location, can respond to all types of taste.