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Chem Senses. 2013 Jul;38(6):519-27. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjt022. Epub 2013 May 24.

Changes in fungiform papillae density during development in humans.

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Children's Food Research and Education Unit, Centre for Advanced Food Research, College of Science and Technology and Environment, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South, NSW 1797, Australia.


The anterior region of the human tongue ceases to grow by 8-10 years of age and the posterior region at 15-16 years. This study was conducted with 30 adults and 85 children (7-12 year olds) to determine whether the cessation of growth in the anterior tongue coincides with the stabilization of the number and distribution of fungiform papillae (FP) on this region of the tongue. This is important for understanding when the human sense of taste becomes adult in function. This study also aimed to determine whether a small subpopulation of papillae could be used to predict the total number of papillae. FP were photographed and analyzed using a digital camera. The results indicated that the number of papillae stabilized at 9-10 years of age, whereas the distribution and growth of papillae stabilized at 11-12 years of age. One subpopulation of papillae predicted the density of papillae on the whole anterior tongue of 7-10 year olds, whereas another was the best predictor for the older children and adults. Overall, the population, size, and distribution of FP stabilized by 11-12 years of age, which is very close to the age that cessation of growth of the anterior tongue occurs.


adults and children; gustatory development; papillae density predictors; tongue

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