Feeling anxious? Your mood may actually change how your dinner tastes, making the bitter and salty flavours recede, according to new research. This link between the chemical balance in your brain and your sense of taste could one day help doctors to treat depression. There are currently no on-the-spot tests for deciding which medication will work best in individual patients with this condition. Researchers hope that a test based on flavour detection could help doctors to get more prescriptions right first time.
It has long been known that people who are depressed have lower-than-usual levels of the brain chemicals serotonin or noradrenaline, or in some cases both. Many also have a blunted sense of taste, which is presumably caused by changes in brain chemistry. To unpick the relationship between the two, Lucy Donaldson and her colleagues at the University of Bristol, UK, gave 20 healthy volunteers two antidepressant drugs, and checked their sensitivity to different tastes. The drug that raised serotonin levels made people more sensitive to sweet and bitter tastes, the team reports in the Journal of Neuroscience. The other, which increased noradrenaline, enhanced recognition of bitter and sour tastes.
In healthy people, volunteers whose anxiety levels were naturally higher were less sensitive to bitter and salty tastes.