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How the brain copes with bitterness

Par Vitisphere Le 16 février 2018
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How the brain copes with bitterness
Bitterness is a double-edged flavour. - crédit photo : Flickr

ccording to neurobiologist Gabriel Lepousez, 700 molecules have now been listed as responsible for bitterness and include peptides, esters, lactones and polyphenols.


An innate rejection

It is important to realise that our brain innately rejects bitter flavours," said Lepousez. “And we are very well equipped to perceive them: our tongue has 25 taste receptors for bitterness”.


The neurobiologist also pointed out that there is no topography of flavours on the tongue: “Bitter-specific receptors are distributed across the tongue and in the digestive tract. If we feel more bitterness at the back of the tongue, this is because there are more receptors here, and because bitterness reveals itself slower than other flavours. But keep some wine for 30 seconds on the front of your tongue and you will feel it”.

Also, our bitterness detection threshold is 100 to 1,000 times lower than that of other flavours. We are very sensitive to it because many bitter compounds are toxic. However, sensitivity varies from one individual to another, depending on genetics, age or food culture.


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