Turning this idea on its head, scientists have turned tastes on and off by activating and silencing clusters of specific brain cells in mice."Taste, the way you and I think of it, is ultimately in the brain," said study leader Charles S. Zuker, professor from the Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC).

"Dedicated taste receptors in the tongue detect sweet or bitter and so on, but it is the brain that accords meaning to these chemicals," he noted.

Most people think that we perceive the five basic tastes -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (savoury) - with our tongue.

The researchers performed optogenetic tests on animals that had never tasted sweet or bitter chemicals. The results showed that activation of the corresponding neurons triggered the appropriate behavioural response.

"These experiments prove that the sense of taste is completely hardwired, independent of learning or experience which is different from the olfactory system," Zuker concluded in a paper published in the prestigious journal Nature.

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