How do taste buds work? (Thinkstock)
How do taste buds work?
Lexile

NARRATOR 1: You asked us, how do taste buds work?

Taste buds are arranged like the inside of an orange. Fifty to 150 cells are all lined up next to each other. Each of those cells has what's called a taste hair that pokes out of the top.

The hairs are geared to tune into the presence of a particular chemical. And when they do, they send a signal to the brain that says, hey, you're eating something sour, or sweet or whatever.

Thousands of taste buds are found, not just in our tongues, but also in the roofs of our mouths and in our throats.

We used to think that different tastes, like salty or sweet, could only be sensed by buds on specific areas of our tongues. But now we know that each bud has receptors for all five tastes. Like sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami.

Combined with our sense of smell, taste buds help us survive. We steer clear of bitter tasting, poisonous and rotting food. Instead, we eat our nutrient-rich morsels of sweet, salty or savory goodness.

It's making me hungry just thinking about it. I mean, who's up for a spaghetti basket?

NARRATOR 2: What?

NARRATOR 1: For more stories like this, check us out everyday at smithsonian.com. Mm, spaghetti basket.

Critical thinking challenge: Why are tastes based on chemicals?


Assigned 123 times


COMMENTS (115)
  • PhoebeA2015
    4/08/2015 - 09:10 a.m.

    I didn't know that we had that many buds in our mouth. I also really didn't know we had taste buds in our throat and the roof of our mouth thought we only had them on or tongue. but ow that i think about it, it does explain why we can taste when food is in those areas.

  • jordanm-Goo
    4/08/2015 - 11:06 a.m.

    Our tastes is based on chemicals. The text states that Thousands of taste buds are found, not just in our tongues, but also in the roofs of our mouths and in our throats. The text also states that We used to think that different tastes, like salty or sweet, could only be sensed by buds on specific areas of our tongues. But now we know that each bud has receptors for all five tastes. Like sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. The evidence from the text proves that when you taste something it's based on chemicals.

  • hailie1237
    4/08/2015 - 11:23 a.m.

    My mom is a doctor, and she always tells me that your taste buds change every 7 years or so. It says that our taste buds help us survive along with our smell. Thousands of taste buds are found not just on the tongue but on the roof of your mouth. They send a signal to your brain when your eating something sweet and or sour. By smelling something it makes us hungry.

  • LaceyK-Kut
    4/08/2015 - 12:42 p.m.

    Taste buds are something that the human body can not live without. If we didn't have taste buds and our sense of smell, then we wouldn't know if what we were eating was something horrible or dangerous. I feel that they are one of the most important things the human body uses since people use them a lot by eating or drinking. Taste buds are like mini little life savers since they taste the things you eat allowing you to know if what you ate is really bad for you. Taste buds are amazing to learn about what they actually do to help people.

  • jordynp-Cur
    4/08/2015 - 12:57 p.m.

    i like how it talked about how we have different taste buds in different spots and that we have taste buds on the roof of are mouth and also in our throat we have certain area of telling if the food is sweet, salty, bitter,and other types of tasty treats some food can be sweet and salty and our taste buds can find that even if you dont taste right away.whatever we eat you have to be happy that you have taste buds cause some people don have any. taste buds are very interesting like how do they allow you to taste but now i know that answer.

  • owenk-Cur
    4/08/2015 - 12:57 p.m.

    how does the taste buds send a message to your brain?
    does your taste buds go up all the way to your brain,
    or is it a connect thing that gos in your brain and taste buds?
    i dont know but i hope i figger it out

  • zarab-Orv
    4/08/2015 - 01:07 p.m.

    This article is interacting because it shows you how taste buds work. Did you know there are 150 cells that work on your tong. There are Little hairs on your tong called taste hairs that sense what your eating.

  • brandi1018
    4/08/2015 - 01:16 p.m.

    This is so interesting! A good thing about this is we finially know how our taste buds work. Although we still have to taste the nasty and sour tasting things. An interesting thing about it is we also have taste buds not only on our tonuges but on the roof of our mouths. I am so glad that we have smart enough people to figure that out.

  • max_5201
    4/08/2015 - 03:49 p.m.

    I think its fasinating how taste buds work. How they can taste sweet, sour, salty , and bitter.
    I also think its cool how we use our nose, top of the mouth and throat to taste our food.

  • AStephanie-Cas
    4/08/2015 - 05:13 p.m.

    I believe taste buds are the coolest things ever. I mean when you think about it they are practically the brains in our mouth. They tell us when things are salty, sweet and even bitter. Out taste buds are pretty awesome when you think about it. Without them we couldn't be able to eat our grandmother's famous cookies, or the good cake you had the other night. We wouldn't be able to say yes I like that or no I don't like that.

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