Increased taste intensity perception exhibited by patients with chronic back pain

Dana M. Small, A. Vania Apkarian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


There is overlap between brain regions involved in taste and pain perception, and cortical injuries may lead to increases as well as decreases in sensitivity to taste. Recently it was shown that chronic back pain (CBP) is associated with a specific pattern of brain atrophy. Since CBP is characterized by increased sensitivity to pain, we reasoned that the sense of taste might also be enhanced in CBP. Detection and recognition thresholds were established for a sour taste and ratings of both suprathreshold taste intensity and pleasantness-unpleasantness perception were collected for sweet, sour, salty and bitter stimuli in 11 CBP patients and 11 matched control subjects. As a control, ratings were also collected for visual assessment of degree of grayness. There was no difference between CBP and control subjects for visual grayness rating. On the other hand, CBP patients in comparison to control subjects rated gustatory stimuli as significantly more intense but no more or less pleasant and showed a trend towards a lower detection threshold (i.e. increased sensitivity). The selectivity of the taste disturbance suggests interaction between pain and taste at specific brain sites and provides further evidence that CBP involves specific brain abnormalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-130
Number of pages7
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Chronic pain
  • Gustation
  • Insula
  • Sensitivity
  • Thresholds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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