Variations in human taste bud density and taste intensity perception

Physiol Behav. 1990 Jun;47(6):1213-9. doi: 10.1016/0031-9384(90)90374-d.


Some variations in human taste sensitivity may be due to different numbers of taste buds among subjects. Taste pores were counted on the tongue tips of 16 people with videomicroscopy, and the subjects were divided into two groups (N = 8) by the rank order of their taste bud densities. The "higher" density group averaged 374 +/- 134 taste pores/cm2, while the "lower" density group averaged 135 +/- 43 tp/cm2. The higher density group had an average fungiform papilla density which was 1.8 times greater than the lower density group and an average of 1.5 times more taste pores/papilla. The subjects also rated the intensity for 4 suprathreshold concentrations of 5 taste stimuli placed on the same region of the tongue where taste pores were counted. The group with higher taste bud densities gave significantly higher average intensity ratings for sucrose (196%), NaCl (135%) and PROP (142%), but not for citric acid (118%) and quinine HCl (110%) than the lower density group. Thus, the subjects with higher fungiform taste bud densities also reported some tastes as more intense than subjects with fewer fungiform taste buds.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arousal / physiology
  • Humans
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Buds / anatomy & histology*
  • Taste Threshold / physiology*
  • Tongue / innervation