Researchers have been piecing together a more complex picture of the chemosensory experience of taste. Identifying new taste receptors on the surface of the tongue and elucidating the enzymatic steps in the signal-transduction pathways of taste are two areas in which biologists are engaged. Teasing apart the psychological and physical aspects of taste-an area of study called psychophysics-is yet another dimension to understanding how we taste food and drink.

SCREENING MECHANISM: Andrew Spielman notes that the sense of taste helps animals select what food is safe, palatable, and nutritious.
Of the five senses, taste is one of the least understood. In humans, hearing and vision are more developed than the senses of taste and smell, but the cellular machinery that relays gustatory and olfactory messages to the brain is the first line of defense for what we ingest, say chemosensory researchers. "We view taste primarily as a screening mechanism," says...

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