This study examined the effects of stress on taste perception. Participants (N = 38; 21 women) completed two laboratory sessions: one stress (public speaking, math, and cold pressor) and one control rest session. The taste perception test was conducted at the end of each session and included rating the intensity and pleasantness of sweet, salty, sour, and savory solutions at suprathreshold concentrations. Cardiovascular, hormonal, and mood measures were collected throughout the sessions. Participants showed the expected changes in cardiovascular, hormonal, and mood measures in response to stress. Reported intensity of the sweet solution was significantly lower on the stress day than on the rest day. Cortisol level poststress predicted reduced intensity of salt and sour, suggesting that stress-related changes in adrenocortical activity were related to reduced taste intensity. Results indicate that acute stress may alter taste perception, and ongoing research investigates the extent to which these changes mediate effects of stress on appetite.
Copyright © 2011 Society for Psychophysiological Research.