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Physiol Behav. 2002 Apr 15;75(5):753-7.

Electrogustometric thresholds: relationship to anterior tongue locus, area of stimulation, and number of fungiform papillae.

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School of Dental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


is well established that, on the anterior tongue, thresholds for chemical tastants are inversely related to the number of fungiform papillae. However, it is not known whether this is the case for thresholds to electrical currents presented to the lingual surface. In this study, electrical thresholds for 16 subjects were determined at four left-side anterior lingual locations: tongue tip (TT), a region 1.7 cm posterior to the tip, a region 3.4 cm posterior to the TT, and a region 1.7 cm from the tip along the lateral margin. Two electrode sizes were employed (12.5 and 50 mm2), and stimulus duration was held constant at 0.5 s. The number of fungiform papillae was determined using videomicroscopy. Analogous to what is seen with chemical stimulation, an inverse relationship was present between the mean electrical thresholds, expressed in terms of current density, and the number of papillae within the stimulated regions. The TT --which has the highest density of fungiform papillae -- was found to be more sensitive than the other tongue regions evaluated. Also paralleling chemical thresholds, the mean electrical threshold values were lower (i.e., sensitivity was higher) at a given tongue locus for the 50-mm2 than for the 12.5-mm2 stimulus area. Overall, this study demonstrates that thresholds for electrical stimulation vary across discrete regions of the anterior tongue and are specifically related to the number of fungiform papillae within the stimulated regions. These observations provide additional support for the hypothesis that lingual sensations induced by low levels of electrical current are mediated by the taste system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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