“Tongue Prints” May Show Taste Preferences

“Tongue Prints” May Show Taste Preferences


The only time I’ve really thought about my tongue is when I’ve burned it on hot soup or pizza or coffee, and then that unpleasant numb and sandpapery sensation gets in the way of all the awesome things I want to taste for a day or two. Otherwise, it’s justmy words and staying out of the way of my teeth, and doing a bunch of actually really complex and difficult stuff completely unconsciously… Now that I think about it, go tongues!

Researchers have discovered another superpower the muscular mouth organ can add to its list: Each has a distinctive “tongue print,” likened to a fingerprint, that may tell the secrets of the human its attached to. The University of Edinburgh-based team used AI to analyze silicone casts of fifteen subjects’ tongues, taking microscopic scans and creating comprehensive maps of their taste buds. There were some surprising predictive results.

“The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that a single papilla could predict someone’s gender and age with moderate accuracy, up to 67% – 75%, and even the specific individual could be identified from the 15 study participants with about 48% accuracy (a random predictor would have an accuracy of just 6.66%). 

While further studies are needed to confirm this in larger numbers of people, the study provides some of the first evidence that tongue papillae could act as unique identifiers, the authors said. […]

Studying how the distribution of papillae varies across individuals and populations could provide new insights into why certain people or groups like some foods more than others, and how tongue features correlate with various medical conditions.”

This phenomenon could be a boon to the nutrition of the future as well, helping scientists understand how a food is interpreted by different tongues in order to pare down the fat content without losing flavour, for example. The hardworking, humble tongue has some mysteries left; it’s up to us to become aware of the miracle in our mouths, and crack them!