When Hot Is Cold – how temperature effects taste

When Hot Is Cold – how temperature effects taste – Brief Article

Alison Calabia

If you’ve ever thought ice cream tasted salty, you’ve experienced “thermal taste,” a scientific oddity explored in a recent issue of Nature.

Barry Green, Ph.D., an otolaryngology professor at the Yale School of Medicine, discovered that changing the tongue’s temperature can affect taste sensations. Two-thirds of his 24 test subjects detected different taste sensations when their tongues were cooled or warmed: When cooled, the tongue’s sides detected sourness, while the rear identified bitterness.

How thermal taste works is a mystery, but the phenomenon reveals one certainty about how the brain codes taste: “No matter how you activate a taste nerve–by food or by hot or cold stimulation–the brain still interprets the sensation as taste,” explains Robert Frank, Ph.D., a University of Cincinnati psychology professor and taste perception expert. But it seems thermal taste plays a weak role in food appreciation, so don’t expect ambitious chefs to tinker with food temperatures any time soon.

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