Research from the University of Bristol has shown that our ability to recognise certain tastes can be improved by administering drugs usually given for depression.
The researchers gave healthy volunteers antidepressant drugs that increase levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline. They report today in the Journal of Neuroscience that these tests resulted in the volunteers being able to detect different tastes (salt, sugar, sour, and bitter) at lower concentrations, thus enhancing their ability to taste.
Dr Lucy Donaldson, senior author on the paper, said: “When we increased serotonin levels we found that people could recognise sweet and bitter taste at much lower concentrations than when their serotonin levels were normal. With increased noradrenaline levels the same people could recognise bitter and sour tastes at lower concentrations. Salt taste doesn’t seem to be affected at all by altering either of these neurotransmitters.”
She added: “Because we have found that different tastes change in response to changes in the two different neurotransmitters, we hope that using a taste test in depressed people will tell us which neurotransmitter is affected in their illness.”
Dr Jan Melichar, the lead psychiatrist on the paper, added: “This is very exciting. Until now we have had no easy way of deciding which is the best medication for depression. As a result, we get it right about 60-80% of the time. It then takes up to four weeks to see if the drug is working, or if we need to change it. However, with a taste test, we may be able to get it right first time.”
Taste is often thought to be determined genetically and, until now, people assumed it was fixed throughout life. But these studies show that the ability to recognise different tastes can be altered by the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline and by people’s mood.
In the study, three drugs were given to the volunteers: SSRI (serotonin specific reuptake inhibitor) to raise serotonin levels; NARI (noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor) to raise noradrenaline levels (another neurotransmitter important in depression, and also found in taste buds); and an inactive placebo.
The volunteers were first tested for their ability to recognise certain tastes. The drug was then administered and two hours afterwards they were asked to take the same test again.
The volunteers were also assessed for anxiety levels, their overall level of anxiety being related to their ability to taste – the more anxious a person was, the less sensitive to bitter and salt taste they were.
These results give an important insight into how neurotransmitters affect the taste system. It seems that tasting bitter things can be changed by changes in both serotonin and noradrenaline levels, that sweet taste is affected by only serotonin levels, and that sour taste is affected by noradrenaline.
These findings may also explain why anxious and depressed individuals have diminished appetite. The results also show that taste is related to anxiety levels, even in generally well people.
Cherry Lewis | alfa
How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism
19.01.2018 | Weill Cornell Medicine
Researchers identify new way to unmask melanoma cells to the immune system
17.01.2018 | Duke University Medical Center
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.01.2018 | Life Sciences