Psychophysical tracking method to assess taste detection thresholds in children, adolescents, and adults: The taste detection threshold (tdt) test

Paule V. Joseph, Julie A. Mennella, Beverly J. Cowart, M. Yanina Pepino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper describes a two-alternative, forced-choice, staircase, tracking procedure, called the Taste Detection Threshold (TDT) test, that provides a reliable measure of sweet, salty, and umami taste detection thresholds from childhood to adulthood. Advantages of the method include procedures that are identical for children and adults, thus allowing the determination of age-related and individual differences in taste perception, if any, and tasks that can be completed in a relatively short time frame, do not rely on continuous attention or require memorization, control for subjective response biases, and minimize the impact of language development. After a 1 hour fast, participants are presented with pairs of solutions; in each pair, one solution is water, and the other solution contains varying concentrations of the tastant. Using a whole-mouth tasting method, participants taste each solution (without swallowing and with rinsing between tastings) and then point to the solution with a taste or that tastes different from water. The concentration of the stimulus in the subsequent pair increases after a single incorrect response and decreases after two consecutive correct responses. A reversal occurs when the concentration sequence changes direction. The task is deemed completed after the occurrence of four reversals, provided there are a maximum of two dilution steps between two successive reversals, and the series of reversals do not form an ascending pattern. These additional criteria ensure greater reliability in outcomes. The TDT is then calculated as the geometric mean of the concentrations of the four reversals. This method has real-world relevance as it provides information on a dimension of taste perception that is independent of hedonics, and that can change with aging and certain disease states, making it a valuable psychophysical test.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere62384
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number170
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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