Pfaffmann, Carl Department of Psychology, Rockefeller University, New York, New York.
Last reviewed:October 2019
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In vertebrates, the senses of smell (olfaction) and taste (gustation) plus the so-called common chemical sense constitute the external chemical senses, as contrasted with such internal chemoreceptors as the carotid sinus detectors of carbon dioxide in blood, glucose receptors of brain and certain visceral organs, and so on. The olfactory cells of vertebrates, usually located in the olfactory mucosa of the upper nasal passages, are specialized neural elements that are responsive to chemicals in the vapor phase. The floral fragrance of roses and the putrid smell of hydrogen sulfide are two examples of human olfactory sensations. Taste buds of the oral cavity, especially the tongue, are composed of modified epithelial cells responsive to chemicals in solution. Sweet, salty, sour, and bitter are the basic taste qualities experienced by humans. In certain fish (for example, catfish), taste buds occur over the body surface and barbels. The common chemical senses are composed of free nerve endings in the mucous membrane of the eye, nose, mouth, and digestive tract and are responsive to irritants or other chemicals in either the vapor or liquid phase. See also: Carotid body; Chemoreception
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