We examine the sense of taste in order to understand its role in the movements of eating. Babies, and adults, have taste buds distributed primarily over the surface of the tongue, but also on the roof of the mouth and upper throat area. Special taste receptor cells within the taste buds are activated with the action of eating molecules of food and detect the following four “taste” categories: sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. There are thousands of these receptor cells within the mouth. The sense of smell is integral to full flavor experience since it can detect many more variations, therefore the sensory experience of eating is largely an integration of smell and taste receptors. These receptors are for one of these four taste categories, and they wait until their particular taste floats by and activates it. The natural sugar in a biscuit may activate the “sweet” receptors while a taste of lemon triggers the “sour.”
All of these experiences are also transmitted into electrical signals which travel to the part of the brain which triggers reflexes necessary for feeding, the medulla. These reflexes include sucking, salivation, swallowing, and tongue movements. Signals then travel to the parts of the brain which control the motivation to eat, the amygdala and hypothalamus, and senses the pleasurable aspects of taste, the limbic cortex. Yet another part of the brain registers the taste in our consciousness, but we will concern ourselves primarily with the parts that relate to movement. The sense of taste is a dance of sensory experiences detected in the mouth leading to the movements of eating and pleasurable sensations which result, which are controlled and registered in the brain.