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National University of Singapore researchers develop taste-simulating electrodes

3 years ago3 views

Originally published on November 27, 2013

A team of researchers at the National University of Singapore have developed a device to recreate four of major tastes components— sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness— by electrically stimulating the tongue.

Tastebuds found on the tongue are made up of taste receptors connected to nerves. Triggered receptor cells release chemical signals to connected nerves to convey taste to the brain.

In the current taste simulator prototype, tongue interface electrodes are hooked to a main control system through which the users can select the taste and the intensity they want to experience. The command center then signals specific temperature and electric current to the interface electrodes to "tricking" the tongue to experience tastes.

"We have found noninvasive electrical and thermal stimulation of the tip of the tongue successfully generates the primary taste sensations," Nimesha Ranasinghe, the head of the research team at NUS, said in a New Scientist report. "The device is a little clunky at the moment, but redesigning it will mean it can be in contact with the tongue when the user's mouth is almost closed."
Ranasinghe believes this device has important medical applications. It can simulate the taste of sweetness for diabetic patients without altering the their blood sugar. The simulator may also be able to amplify taste for cancer patients who may have lost their sense through chemotherapy.
The NUS team is working to develop the umami taste, and to incorporate smell and texture components to their simulation system. Ranasinghe also believes this device can be developed into a reward system in virtual gaming.

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