Taste test may identify best drugs for depression

ability to recognise different tastes can be altered by the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline and by peoples mood.

In the study, three drugs were given to the volunteers: SSRI (serotonin specific reuptake inhibitor) to raise serotonin levels; NARI (noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor) to raise noradrenaline levels (another neurotransmitter important in depression, and also found in taste buds); and an inactive placebo.

The volunteers were first tested for their ability to recognise certain tastes. The drug was then administered and two hours afterwards they were asked to take the same test again.

The volunteers were also assessed for anxiety levels, their overall level of anxiety being related to their ability to taste the more anxious a person was, the less sensitive to bitter and salt taste they were.

These results give an important insight into how neurotransmitters affect the taste system. It seems that tasting bitter things can be changed by changes in both serotonin and noradrenaline levels, that sweet taste is affected by only serotonin levels, and that sour taste is affected by noradrenaline.

These findings may also explain why anxious and depressed individuals have diminished appetite. The results also show that taste is related to anxiety levels, even in generally well people.


Contact: Cherry Lewis
University of Bristol

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