Age-related changes in electrogustometry thresholds, tongue tip vascularization, density, and form of the fungiform papillae in humans

Chem Senses. 2013 Jan;38(1):35-43. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjs076. Epub 2012 Sep 26.


The aim of the study was to investigate age-related changes in electrogustometry (EGM) thresholds, in morphology and density of the fungiform papillae (fPap) and in vessels' shape and density at the tip of the human tongue.In 156 nonsmokers (74 males, 82 females; age range: 10-80 years), divided in age groups, EGM thresholds at the chorda tympani area, at the soft palate area, and at the area of the vallate papillae were recorded bilaterally. Morphology and density of the fPap and blood vessels' density and morphology at the tip of the tongue were examined using contact endoscopy (CE). EGM thresholds at the chorda tympani area were significantly higher in both men and women ←60 years of age than in younger individuals. At the soft-palatine area, EGM thresholds were significantly higher in men aged 20-29 years and ←60 years compared with men of other age groups. In women older than 50 years, thresholds at all 3 areas were significantly higher than in the younger age groups. No significant differences in EGM thresholds between the two sexes at all locations tested were detected. The density of fPap decreased significantly in men aged >50 years and in women aged >60 years compared with younger individuals. Vascular density decreased significantly and vascular morphology worsened at the tip of the tongue in subjects older than 60 years of age compared with younger subjects. The study showed statistically significant differences in EGM thresholds between the right and the left side of the tongue and between the two sexes. Aging is associated with a progressive increase in EGM thresholds. Density of fPap plays an important role for taste acuity in females aged >60 years and males aged ←50 years. Morphology of fPap and vessels' density and morphology at the tip of the tongue, as tested by CE, emerge as factors influencing taste function in subjects of both sexes aged >60 years.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Taste Buds / anatomy & histology*
  • Taste Buds / blood supply*
  • Taste Threshold*
  • Tongue / anatomy & histology*
  • Tongue / blood supply*