Taste Areas of the Tongue
Have you ever seen a chef taste a newly created sauce? First, she might smell it, because a lot of taste is actually smell. Then, she might use a spoon and make sure she tastes the sauce in several spots of in her mouth. Your tongue is covered with about 10,000 taste buds, which detect five different kinds of tastes: salty, bitter, sweet, sour and umami. Umami, discovered by the Japanese, means “savory” and is a characteristic flavor of soy sauce. How do you think these different types of taste receptors are spread around your tongue? Do you like really getting to know your food? Do you have a group of friends who will taste some yummy flavors, and some yucky ones, for the sake of science? If so, we have a fun experiment for you to try.
Problem: Are some parts of the tongue better at detecting certain tastes than others?
- Eight to ten volunteers
- Lemon juice
- Soy sauce
- Strong black coffee
- Five clean cups
- Tape or labels
- Permanent marker
- 2 Spoons
- Cup of water for each volunteer
- Portable garbage container
- First, recruit your volunteers. Make sure they understand what type of experiment you are doing and that they don't have any food allergies.
- Label the cups "Salty," "Sweet," "Sour," "Umami," and "Bitter."
- Next, make a salty solution to test. Measure a ¼ cup of water into a clean cup labeled "Salty" and add two tablespoons of salt. Stir until the salt is dissolved into the water.
- Next, make the sugary solution to test. Measure a ¼ cup of water into a clean cup labeled "Sweet," and add a two tablespoons of sugar to it. Stir until the salt is dissolved into the water.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in the ‘Sour’ cup, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce in the ‘Umami’ cup., and 2 tablespoons of cold, old coffee in the ‘Bitter’ cup.
- Show a diagram of the taste areas of the tongue to your volunteers.
- Explain that they will touch a cotton swab soaked in the salty solution at each of the four spots on their tongue. For regions B and C, your volunteers need only touch on one side or the other. Tell them that they will determine where they noticed the salty taste the most.
Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state's handbook of Science Safety.