A Pharmacological Perspective on the Study of Taste

Pharmacological Reviews
R Kyle Palmer

Abstract

The study of taste has been guided throughout much of its history by the conceptual framework of psychophysics, where the focus was on quantification of the subjective experience of the taste sensations. By the mid-20th century, data from physiologic studies had accumulated sufficiently to assemble a model for the function of receptors that must mediate the initial stimulus of tastant molecules in contact with the tongue. But the study of taste as a receptor-mediated event did not gain momentum until decades later when the actual receptor proteins and attendant signaling mechanisms were identified and localized to the highly specialized taste-responsive cells of the tongue. With those discoveries a new opportunity to examine taste as a function of receptor activity has come into focus. Pharmacology is the science designed specifically for the experimental interrogation and quantitative characterization of receptor function at all levels of inquiry from molecules to behavior. This review covers the history of some of the major concepts that have shaped thinking and experimental approaches to taste, the seminal discoveries that have led to elucidation of receptors for taste, and how applying principles of receptor pharmacology ca...Continue Reading

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