Experience-Induced Changes in Taste Identification of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) Are Reversible

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A few studies have reported experience-inducible changes in human taste and olfactory sensitivities. However, no study thus far has systematically characterized the stability of the enhanced sensitivities. In our previous study, we found increases in taste identification ability for monosodium glutamate (MSG) in subjects who had been briefly exposed to MSG in food for 10 days. Here, we tested the temporal stability of the enhanced taste identification ability. First, we exposed a group of 20 subjects to MSG in food and then compared their sensitivities to MSG with those of a control group. When tested on day 11 or 12, the mean MSG taste identification ability of the MSG-exposed group was significantly higher than the control group. Next, 11 of the subjects who were exposed to MSG in food initially, and then stopped being exposed performed significantly poorer in identifying MSG after 10 days of the nonexposure than they did 10 days before. In contrast, nine subjects who were exposed to MSG initially and continued being exposed maintained their high identification levels. These results support earlier finding of the plasticity in the taste identification of MSG and show that the enhanced identification ability can be reversed rapidly when MSG exposure is not sustained.

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