Tackling Taste How Your Brain and Tongue Work Together

Your taste buds are sensory organs that enable you to perceive different flavors in food — in other words, to taste the food you eat.

Taste buds (also referred to as taste papillae) are not flowers. They're tiny bumps on the surface of your tongue (see Figure 15-1). Each one contains groups of receptor cells that anchor an antennalike structure called a microvillus, which projects up through a gap (or pore) in the center of the taste bud, sort of like a thread sticking through the hole in Life Savers candy. (For more about the microvilli and how they behave in your digestive tract, see Chapter 2.)

The microvilli in your taste buds transmit messages from flavor chemicals in the food along nerve fibers to your brain, which translates the messages into perceptions: "Oh, wow, that's good," or "Man, that's awful."

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