Columbia University Researchers Find Taste Originates in the Brain

Have you ever wondered what lies beyond your taste buds? A study that was published in the November issue of the scientific journal Nature has the answers.

After more than 10 years of investigation, researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons unearthed the ability to control whether mice receive bitter or sweet tastes. By stimulating neurons in different parts of the mouse's brain, the authors of the study are able to give sour tastes from a sip of water.

The researchers were able to manipulate the mice brains by injecting each subject with a harmless virus containing a protein that switches on neurons when exposed to light. Using a laser, the authors were able to focus on the sweet or bitter sections of the gustatory cortex area in the brain. The group was able to see the mice gagging and attempting to clean their tongues after the bitter side was stimulated.

The next project for the team is using these methods to determine how taste effects other parts of the brain, such as memory.

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