Funded by: BBSRC / GSK CASE award
The oral cavity is a highly heterogeneous and sensitive structure, being one of the body regions most densely innervated, as typified by the Penfield homunculus.
The aim of this project is to examine the neurological and psychological aspects of oral sensation, through various psychophysical methods, quantitative sensory testing and electrophysiology. The project will add further understanding of the sensory and cognitive factors that underpin people’s subjective experience the oral sensory world and how these differ based on a number of factors such as e.g. taster status. This will be done by examining the impact of taster status on oral sensory processing and investigating how the perceived state of the mouth influences subjective and affective states, such as self-confidence. An oral lexicon is also under development in order to construct a common language for participants to describe oral sensations.
Research has firmly established the existence of three types of tasters within the population; Non-tasters (NT), Medium tasters (MT) and Supertasters (ST). Different tasters experience the oral sensory world differently, through different taste intensities and liking of bitter, salty, sweet and fat containing substances. ST’s have reported a greater sense of burn from oral irritants like chili peppers than NT’s and MT’s, they also report a greater perception of creaminess and viscosity from fat. Taster Status is genetic polymorphism that expresses itself in difference in taste perception but also in oral anatomical differences, chemosensory perception and tactile perception. Although the sense of taste is commonly associated with gustatory sensation, the sense of touch is also highly developed intraorally. STs have been found to be approximately 25% more tactually acute then their MT counter parts and twice as sensitive as their NT counterparts.