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Taste refers to the sensory system in which water-soluble chemosensory stimuli are converted into neural signals and perceptual experience. Although taste perception is essential to enjoying a well-prepared steak or lasagna, it also allows us to survive by assisting in the avoidance of toxins and in the regulation of energy balance (homeostasis). In fact, the primary function of taste is to aid in the ingestion of nutrients and in the avoidance of noxious compounds. For example, the energy-rich fructose of an apple tastes sweet and pleasurable, yet the poisonous alkaloid metabolites in plants such as hemlock taste bitter and aversive.

Taste perception begins in specialized structures in the tongue called taste buds that send signals to the brain through peripheral nerves. The peripheral and central taste ...

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