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Upon stimulation with continuously alternating (pulsatile) taste concentrations, humans report higher average taste intensities than for continuous stimulation with the same average tastant concentration. We investigated the effect of the magnitude of concentration changes (concentration contrast) and the effect of taste quality changes (quality contrast) between alternating tastants on sweet taste enhancement. The perceived sweetness intensity increased with the magnitude of the sucrose concentration contrast: The pulsatile stimulus with the highest concentration difference (average sucrose concentration: 60 g/L) was rated as the sweetest in spite of the fact that the gross sucrose concentrations were identical over stimuli. Moreover, this stimulus was rated equally sweet as a continuous reference of 70 g/L sucrose. On alternation of sucrose with the qualitatively different citric acid, sweet taste enhancement remained at the level observed for alternation with water at citric acid concentration levels up to 3 times its detection threshold. Alternation of a sucrose solution with a citric acid solution at 9 times its threshold concentration, resulted in an attenuation of the pulsation-induced enhancement effect. Upon alternation of citric acid pulses at concentrations around the threshold with water intervals only, no taste enhancement was observed compared with continuous citric acid stimuli of the same net concentration. We propose that the magnitude of pulsation-induced taste enhancement is determined by the absolute rather than relative change of tastant concentration. This explains why 1) pulsation-induced sweet taste enhancement is determined by the magnitude of the sucrose pulse-interval contrast and 2) the alteration of citric acid with water does not enhance taste intensity at detection threshold level. © The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


Kerstin Martha Mensien Burseg, Hoang Ly Lieu, Johannes Hendrikus Franciscus Bult. Sweetness intensity enhancement by pulsatile stimulation: effects of magnitude and quality of taste contrast. Chemical senses. 2012 Jan;37(1):27-33

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PMID: 21743095

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