Relationship of papillae number to bitter intensity of quinine and PROP within and between individuals

Physiol Behav. 2001 Oct;74(3):329-37. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(01)00568-6.


Subjects were asked to assess the bitterness of one 6-n-propyl-2-thiouracil (PROP) and two quinine HCl (QHCl) concentrations presented via filter papers of varying sizes. The number of taste papillae stimulated by these filter papers was counted in each individual. Whole mouth sensitivity to PROP was determined in a separate session. In support of other demonstrations of spatial summation, these data indicated that perceived bitterness intensity increased as a function of area of stimulation within subjects. Between subjects, there was a significant trend for the perceived bitterness of PROP to increase with the lingual density of fungiform papillae, although this trend was highly variable and was only demonstrable among those who showed at least moderate sensitivity to PROP. On the other hand, the number of stimulated fungiform papillae failed to account for individual differences in perceived bitterness of QHCl.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Male
  • Propylthiouracil
  • Quinine
  • Taste Buds / physiology*
  • Taste Threshold / physiology*


  • Propylthiouracil
  • Quinine