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Another common usage of tastant is a compound that mimics a flavor or gives a food or drink its flavor. We will use the term tastant throughout this article to focus on how the compounds bind to their receptors and signal to the brain. We will also discuss how many of the sensations we describe as taste are actually provided by the olfactory system, so to truly enjoy the flavor of our favorite foods, both systems must participate in forming sensations.


Sensory receptors are specialized tissues that initiate electrical signals that carry information in your central nervous system (CNS; brain and spinal cord) and allow you to respond to your environment. We have a variety of senses each tuned to different environmental energies. These sensory modalities include touch, temperature, pain, proprioception (body position), taste, smell, sight, and sound. Each of the sensory systems responds to a specific sensory input called an adequate stimulus and sends electrical impulses to the CNS in the process of sensory transduction.


When you put a hot pack or ice pack on your skin, your touch receptors inform you that something is on your skin, but the temperature sensors tell you whether it is hot or cold. Each sensory receptor type responds to one physiological adequate stimulus.