The Effects of Odor Quality and Temporal Asynchrony on Modulation of Taste Intensity by Retronasal Odor

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The experiments had 2 main goals: 1) to add to the sparse literature on how retronasal aromas interact with bitter tastes, and 2) to determine whether modulation of taste intensity by aroma depends on temporal contiguity, as one might expect if flavor interactions depend on cross-modal binding (similar to object perception in other modalities). An olfactometer–gustometer allowed independent oral presentation of odorized air and liquid samples. First, using simultaneous presentation of odors and tastes (Experiments 1a–d) we found that a “sweet-smelling” aroma enhanced the rated sweetness of sucrose and decreased the rated bitterness of sucrose octaacetate (SOA), and that a “bitter-smelling” aroma enhanced the bitterness of SOA and decreased the sweetness of sucrose. Thus, with respect to effects on taste intensity, sweet and bitter aromas mimicked mixture-interactions between sweet and bitter tastes under current conditions. Next (Experiment 2), both odors were again paired with both tastes, with a parametric manipulation of odor onset. Odor presentation ranged from before taste delivery to after taste delivery. Enhancement of taste intensity was greatest with simultaneous onset, and greatly attenuated with offsets of 1s. These results are consistent with the idea that enhancement of taste by retronasal aroma depends on a temporal binding window like many other cross-modal interactions. The effects of temporal offsets on suppression of taste were inconclusive. These findings are discussed within the context of past work on odor–taste interactions.

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