Introduction to Taste and Smell

Explain how taste and smell work together

Taste, also called gustation, and smell, also called olfaction, are the most interconnected senses in that both involve molecules of the stimulus entering the body and bonding to receptors. Smell lets an animal sense the presence of food or other animals—whether potential mates, predators, or prey—or other chemicals in the environment that can impact their survival. Similarly, the sense of taste allows animals to discriminate between types of foods. While the value of a sense of smell is obvious, what is the value of a sense of taste? Different tasting foods have different attributes, both helpful and harmful. For example, sweet-tasting substances tend to be highly caloric, which could be necessary for survival in lean times. Bitterness is associated with toxicity, and sourness is associated with spoiled food. Salty foods are valuable in maintaining homeostasis by helping the body retain water and by providing ions necessary for cells to function.

What You’ll Learn to Do

  • Explain in what way smell and taste differ from other senses
  • Identify the five primary tastes that can be distinguished by humans
  • Identify the parts of the brain associated with taste and smell

Learning Activities

The learning activities for this section include the following:

  • Tastes and Odors
  • Tastes
  • Smell and Taste in the Brain
  • Self Check: Taste and Smell


Did you have an idea for improving this content? We’d love your input.

Improve this pageLearn More