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Influence of Stimulus Temperature on Orosensory Perception and Variation with Taste Phenotype


Recently, the phenomenon of thermal taste, where thermal tasters (TTs) perceive taste sensations from the application of thermal stimuli to the tongue, was described. Thermal taster status (TTS) appears to function as a marker of individual variation in orosensory perception, as TTs are more responsive to prototypical orosensory stimuli and flavor attributes in complex beverages than thermal non-tasters. The main objective of this study was to examine the influence of TTS on the relationship between stimulus temperature and orosensory perception. Propylthiouracil (PROP) responsiveness has long been used as an index of individual variation in oral sensation, as general orosensory responsiveness to a variety of stimuli associates with the ability and degree to which individuals perceive PROP's bitterness. PROP taster status (PTS), an expression of individuals' PROP responsiveness, was also examined. Perceptually equi-intense stimuli eliciting sweet, sour, bitter, and astringent sensations were presented at 5 °C and 35 °C and evaluated using time-intensity methodology. Unexpectedly, an apparent trend of TTs reporting higher maximum perceived intensities for all stimuli was not statistically significant, and an examination of individual subjects' data suggests further examination of the influence of TTS on orosensory stimuli is warranted. PROP bitterness and the perceived intensity of orosensory stimuli were not associated at either temperature; however, some differences between PTS groups were found. As previously reported, TTS and PTS interactions were not observed. Interestingly, temperature influenced the maximum intensity perceived from astringent, bitter, and sour stimuli, but not from the sweet stimulus.

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Aluminum sulfate


Analysis of variance


Total area under the time-intensity curve


Angle (°) of sensation from IMax to the last recorded value


Decrease Area—area under the descending portion of the curve from Imax to the last recorded value


Total duration (s) that the sensation is rated


Fungiform papillae


Generalized labeled magnitude scale


Generalized visual analogue scale


Angle (°) of sensation increase from start to Imax


Increase Area—area under the ascending portion of the curve from start to Imax


Initial Delay—time (s) to first response


Initial Intensity—first intensity response


Maximum intensity


Labeled magnitude scale


Monosodium glutamate


PROP medium-taster


PROP non-taster




PROP super-taster




PROP taster status


Standard error


Time intensity


Time (s) to maximum intensity


Thermal non-taster(s)


Transient receptor potential melastatin 5 channel


Thermal taster(s)


Thermal taster status


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This work was completed as part of MRB's PhD requirements at Brock University. The authors thank Lynda van Zuiden (Brock University) for assistance. The Brock University Electronics and Machine Shops are thanked for building the thermode. Dr. Barry Green (Yale University) is sincerely thanked for his assistance with the production of the thermode, and Dr. Linda Bartoshuk (University of Florida) is thanked for her guidance on scale choice and use. Anonymous reviewers are thanked for their thoughtful comments and insightful suggestions. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Pangborn Sensory Science Scholarship, and the American Wine Society Educational Foundation are gratefully acknowledged for scholarship funding. GalaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Division, which underwrites the Pangborn Scholarship, has no other interest in this work. An NSERC Discovery Grant (#238881) to GJP supported this research.

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Correspondence to Gary J. Pickering.

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Bajec, M.R., Pickering, G.J. & DeCourville, N. Influence of Stimulus Temperature on Orosensory Perception and Variation with Taste Phenotype. Chem. Percept. 5, 243–265 (2012).

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  • Taste
  • Astringency
  • Propylthiouracil taster status
  • Thermal taster status
  • Temperature
  • Time-intensity