Do you remember being taught that the tongue is a “map” divided into sections according to taste receptors? The tip of the tongue is for sweet, sides for sour and salty, and the back of the tongue for bitter. But recent studies show that the tongue map is wrong! We do know that there are at least five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and the recently discovered “umami”. Umami means “savory” in Japanese and can be detected in miso, soy sauce and other Asian foods, in particular those with monosodium glutamate. Scientists believe that there may be receptors for still other flavors.
In a 2006 study in the journal Nature, scientists reported that receptors for the basic tastes are found in distinct cells and that these cells are not localized but spread throughout the tongue. Still other studies show that some parts of the tongue may be more sensitive to certain flavors and that there may be differences in how men and women detect sour, salty and bitter flavors.