Are human taste thresholds similar on the right and left sides of the tongue?

Chem Senses. 2001 Sep;26(7):875-83. doi: 10.1093/chemse/26.7.875.


The human tongue is a relatively symmetrical anatomical structure and is generally assumed functionally equivalent on both sides. Experimental evaluation of this assumption is complicated by the fact that psychophysical measurements tend to vary considerably across testing sessions. To address functional laterality, we determined the detection thresholds of six right-handed and six left-handed subjects for Na saccharin, NaCl, citric acid and quinine HCl. Five pairs of interwoven, left and right unilateral thresholds were obtained for each taste stimulus in 12 subjects (n = 480 separate thresholds). In most cases mean sensitivity based on multiple measurements was found to be laterally symmetrical, however, we observed a few cases of lateral asymmetry of both general and compound-specific sensitivity. Threshold values were found to vary considerably across sessions, consistent with the test-retest variability previously reported for whole mouth thresholds. We conclude that taste threshold sensitivity is equivalent on the left and right anterior tongue for most individuals. Given the occasional exceptions to this rule, however, it is advisable to employ a counterbalanced design for any experimental or clinical testing protocol in which treatments are applied asymmetrically to the tongue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Citric Acid / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Quinine / administration & dosage
  • Saccharin / administration & dosage
  • Sodium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Buds / physiology*
  • Taste Threshold / physiology
  • Tongue / physiology*


  • Citric Acid
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Quinine
  • Saccharin