The initial objective of this study was to determine if activation of the sweet taste receptor TAS1R2/TAS1R3 is necessary for perception of sweet thermal taste (swTT). Our approach was to inhibit the receptor with the inverse agonist lactisole using a temperature-controlled flow gustometer. Because all prior studies of thermal taste (TT) used metal thermodes to heat the tongue tip, we first investigated whether it could be generated in heated water. Experiment 1 showed that sweetness could be evoked when deionized water was heated from 20 to 35 °C, and testing with static temperatures between 20 and 35 °C demonstrated the importance of heating from a cool temperature. As in previous studies, thermal sweetness was reported by only a subset of participants, and replicate measurements found variability in reports of sweetness across trials and between sessions. Experiment 2 then showed that exposure to 8 mM lactisole blocked perception of swTT. Confirmation of the involvement of TAS1R2/TAS1R3 led to an investigation of possible sensory and cognitive interactions between thermal and chemical sweetness. Using sucrose as a sweet stimulus and quinine as a nonsweet control, we found that dynamic heating capable of producing thermal sweetness did not increase the sweetness of sucrose compared with static heating at 35 °C. However, swTT was disrupted if trials containing sucrose (but not quinine) were interspersed among heating-only trials. These findings provide new information relevant to understanding the perceptual processes and receptor mechanisms of swTT, as well as the heat sensitivity of sweet taste in general.

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