What is Smelling and Tasting? | Types, Definition, Structure, Function & Facts

What is Smelling and Tasting?

Smell and taste are two of the five senses. They often work together, so we’ll talk about both here.

Smelling and the Nose

We use our noses to smell things. At the top inside our nose are millions of tiny hairs called cilia. These hairs are connected to odor sensors that send signals to our brain about smell via the olfactory nerve. We smell things as they emit small molecules that float through the air and enter our noses.

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We can’t see these tiny molecules, but they’re there. The reason we sniff is to bring many of these molecules to the top of the nose, where they can attach to special sensors and identify odors.

Smell helps us in many ways. First, it improves the taste of our food. We can’t really taste that many flavors, but with the help of our sense of smell, we can “taste” thousands of different things. In addition, the smell helps to warn us of bad things like rotting food or smoke from a fire.

Tasting and the Tongue

We use our tongues to taste everything. The tongue uses taste buds or sensory cells to determine the type of food and send taste signals back to our brain. The tongue can taste four different tastes: bitter, sour, salty and (perhaps most deliciously) sweet.

It was once thought that each of these flavors came from different places on the tongue: sweet at the top, salty on the sides, sour at the back, and bitter at the back. Now scientists say flavors can be tasted from almost any part of the tongue.

Using Smell and Taste Together

As we discussed above, we can taste four distinct flavors. We can also smell more than 10,000 odors. When we eat something, the taste comes from the combination of taste and smell. Sometimes touch or pain can also affect taste due to the texture of the food or the heat of the spicy food.

Interesting Facts About Taste and Smell

Scientists are probably less familiar with these two senses than with any other, although hearing and vision are much more complex.

These bumps on our tongue are called papillae.

The average length of the human tongue is 4 inches, the average giraffe tongue length is 19 inches.

The tongue is made up of a set of muscles.

Just as some people cannot see or hear, some cannot smell. This is called anosmia.

As you age, your sense of smell tends to deteriorate.