Taste suppression following lingual capsaicin pre-treatment in humans

Christopher T. Simons, Michael O'Mahony, Earl Carstens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Scopus citations

Abstract

The effect of oral capsaicin on taste sensations in humans was reinvestigated with attention to methodological issues raised in previous studies, including the mode of presentation and temperature of the tastant stimulus, as well as the sensitizing and desensitizing properties of capsaicin. One-half of the dorsal anterior tongue was pre-treated with capsaicin, followed by bilateral tastant application (sucrose, NaCl, quinine, monosodium glutamate and citric acid). Subjects indicated on which side the taste intensity was greater in a two-alternative, forced-choice procedure and also rated taste intensity independently on each side of the tongue. Each of the five tastants was tested sequentially, with reapplication of capsaicin between trials in order to maintain a constant level of burn. Four experiments were conducted: (i) a high concentration (33 p.p.m.) (109 μM) capsaicin effect on taste intensity elicited by high tastant concentrations; (ii) a high concentration capsaicin effect on taste intensity elicited by low tastant concentrations; (iii) a low concentration (1.5 p.p.m.) (4.9 μM) capsaicin effect on taste intensity elicited by low tastant concentrations; and (iv) validation of the method for localizing taste by pre-treating one side of the tongue with Gymnema sylvestre, followed by bilateral application of sucrose. In the first experiment, a significant proportion of the subjects chose the non-treated side in the two-alternative, forced-choice procedure and assigned significantly higher ratings to that side for sucrose-induced sweetness, quinine-induced bitterness and glutamate-induced umami sensations. Salty and sour sensations were not different between sides. A 15 min break was imposed in order to allow the capsaicin burn to disappear and desensitization to set in, followed by reapplication of the tastant test solutions. There were no bilateral differences in the intensity of the sensations elicited by any of the five tastants. Similar results were obtained in experiments 2 and 3. In the fourth experiment, all 15 subjects tested chose the side not treated with Gymnema sylvestre as having a stronger sweet taste and assigned significantly higher ratings to that side, thereby validating the method for taste localization. These results indicate that oral capsaicin reduces certain but not all taste sensations and are discussed in terms of possible physiological and cognitive interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-365
Number of pages13
JournalChemical Senses
Volume27
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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    Simons, C. T., O'Mahony, M., & Carstens, E. (2002). Taste suppression following lingual capsaicin pre-treatment in humans. Chemical Senses, 27(4), 353-365.