sense of taste

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Cerebral Cortex: the outer layers of the brain responsible for important brain functions, like thinking and feeling... more

Cranial: relating to the skull (cranium) or brain. The cranial nerves carry signals between the brain and body.

Gland: an organ that releases materials for use in certain places in the body or on the outside of the body... more

Neurotransmitter: a chemical that acts as a messenger and communicates information throughout the brain and body. Nerve tissue uses neurotransmitters to communicate....more

Receptor: a molecule on the surface of a cell that responds to specific molecules and receives chemical signals sent by other cells.

Thalamus: is the part of the brain that works like a switching station. This part of the brain takes information coming from the body and sends it on to the cerebral cortex... more

The Flavor Experience: Integration by the Brain

A message of taste moves from the taste buds in the tongue to the brain through cranial nerves. The signal is first received by areas in the brainstem, which connects the spinal cord with the rest of the brain. The signal then moves to the thalamus in the brain. Finally, the thalamus passes the signal onto a special area in the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex, the gustatory cortex, where the taste signal is interpreted. The signal from the taste buds in the tongue to the brain moves between nerve cells through the release of special chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Painting called Maya with Cupcake

Taste and smell combine to make the flavor you taste when you eat food, like a cupcake. "Maya with Cupcake" painting by Maria Raquel Cochez. Click to enlarge.

Smell from odor receptors in the nose also have a direct connection to the brain. The odor signal travels to the primary olfactory cortex, or the smell center of the brain. The taste and odor signals meet, and produce the perception of flavor. Once our brains are aware of the flavor, a reaction is produced. We either accept or reject the food because we either enjoy it or not.

There are other reactions to food that don’t involve processing by the brain. Has food every been so spicy it made you cry, or your nose drip? In addition to the nerves that carry signals from the taste receptors to the brain, there are other nerves that carry the signal from the taste receptor cells to the nasal cavity and to tear-producing glands near the eyes.

Additional images via Wikimedia Commons. Brain lobes by Camazine.

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Bibliographic details:

  • Article: Taste In the Brain
  • Author(s): Shelley Valle
  • Publisher: Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Ask A Biologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask A Biologist
  • Date published: October 6, 2017
  • Date accessed: July 15, 2024
  • Link:

APA Style

Shelley Valle. (2017, October 06). Taste In the Brain. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved July 15, 2024 from

American Psychological Association. For more info, see

Chicago Manual of Style

Shelley Valle. "Taste In the Brain". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 06 October, 2017.

MLA 2017 Style

Shelley Valle. "Taste In the Brain". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 06 Oct 2017. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 15 Jul 2024.

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see
Labelled brain lobes

Some parts of taste and smell are processed separately in different parts of the brain, but our understanding of flavor is based on a combination of these senses and others.

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