Objective: Taste is an important sense for humans, but research on taste sensation is currently limited. Clinical evaluations of taste rely on subjective reports, and there are currently no objective evaluations available. In this study, we consider the possibility of objectively evaluating taste by measuring prefrontal cortex activity with functional near-infrared spectroscopy during taste stimulation with sweet, salty, sour, and bitter taste stimuli.
Methods: We recruited 6 male and 3 female healthy adult volunteers to participate in this study. Taste solutions or distilled water (as a control) were dropped onto the tongue using a dropper. The degree of discomfort in response to the taste solution was evaluated on a visual analog scale.
Results: We observed no significant differences between stimuli on any spectroscopy channel (P>0.05). We observed no reductions in oxyhemoglobin levels with the sweet stimuli, but progressively greater reductions with salty, sour, and bitter stimuli. We observed that responses to sour (P<0.05) and bitter (P<0.01) stimuli were significantly different from those to control at channel 1. We found a negative correlation between visual analog scale scores and minimum oxyhemoglobin levels (r=-0.641, P<0.01).
Conclusions: Our measurements of prefrontal cortex activity with near-infrared spectroscopy suggest it may be a useful objective evaluation of taste stimulation.