Mom's Story

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Study authors find brain lesion, taste problem link

A new study finds that the more lesions spotted on an MRI, the worse the taste function of the patient with multiple sclerosis. They also found that women did better men on taste measures.

The researchers, led by Richard Doty, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Smell and Taste Center, administered a standard taste test (sweet, sour, bitter, and salty) to 73 MS patients and 73 controls subjects, along with MRI of 52 brain regions known to be affected by MS in both groups. They found that the disease significantly influenced the ability to identify tastes, especially salty and sweet. Fifteen to 32 percent of MS patients – which is nearly twice as high as previous studies found – had taste scores below the 5th percentile of controls. What’s more, taste scores were inversely correlated with lesion amounts and volumes in the large sectors of the frontal and temporal lobes, the higher regions of the brain, identified on the MRI.

Regardless of subject group, women outperformed men on taste measures, which mirrors what previous taste studies have found. It is likely because women have more taste papillae and taste buds than men, the researchers said.

“It appears that a sizable number of these patients exhibit taste deficits, more so than originally thought. This suggests that altered taste function, though less noticeable than changes in vision, is a relatively common feature in MS. Future studies investigating the relationship between taste and MS may help better diagnose and understand the disease, as well as better manage symptoms,” Doty said.

The findings were reported in the Journal of Neurology.

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