Constraints imposed on taste physiology by human taste reaction time data

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. Summer 1986;10(2):135-51. doi: 10.1016/0149-7634(86)90024-2.


The speed with which an organism responds to stimulus events is reaction time (RT): the minimum time interval between stimulus arrival at a receptor organ, and an overt response by the organism. This time interval specifies maximum duration of all processes necessary for the RT sequence. Responses to any change in taste have RT less than 1 sec for suprathreshold concentrations. Therefore, constituent events at taste receptors, in the central nervous system (CNS), and at the response organ, must have sufficient durations less than 1 sec (Constraint 1). Taste stimulus durations of 50 msec, and therefore taste receptor events of approximately 50 msec, are sufficient for these responses (Constraint 2), as well as for taste quality identification responses (Constraint 3). Taste receptor latencies, neural conduction times, and RT response organ events are even briefer. Thus, 60% to 90% of human taste RT is CNS events. Taste receptor events remain crucial, but CNS processing is important, and apparently time limiting, in all human taste judgments.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Buds / physiology
  • Taste Threshold / physiology