A new study from Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) has found a person’s ability to recognize different tastes and flavors is not completely dependent on the tongue alone.
CSULB Family and Consumer Sciences lecturer and lead researcher on the study Kristin Mahood used wine to conduct the study as simple non-food solutions were used for past research.
Mahood and assistant professor Long Wang looked at the extremely rare condition known as Isolated Congenital Aglossia (ICA), where a person is born without a tongue and no other symptoms. An amateur wine taster and a person with ICA were given five different wines to taste. The participant with ICA gave similar ratings of taste compared to the naive wine taster without the condition, according to the release.
Twelve cases of ICA have been published since it was first described in 1718 by de Jussieu. It is believed to be caused when parts of the mouth fail to form correctly from the fourth to eighth gestational week as an embryo develops.
“Our findings that a person without a tongue tastes very similarly to a person with a tongue may give hope to those populations who experience tongue loss or taste dysfunction,” Mahood said in a statement. “Their quality of life may not be as severely impacted as they think it might.”
The results may be because there are taste buds in other parts of the mouth, as well as the sense of smell which plays a big role in perceiving taste.
Mahood’s findings were published in the Journal of Communication Disorders, Deaf Studies and Hearing Aids and might help those who have lost their tongue because of cancer and other diseases improve nutrition and quality of life.
“This sheds exciting light on the potential for new rehabilitation strategies for the loss of taste function,” Wang said in a statement. “We could potentially train our brains to sense certain taste stimuli.”
Mahood and Wang hope to expand their research into how taste perception changes with aging and hope to apply their findings for people with head and neck injuries, cancer, alzheimer's and autism.