1 BRAIN Lab, Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 Harland Sanders Chair, School of Optometry, University of Montreal, 3744 Jean-Brillant, Room 210-05, Montreal H3T 1P1 QC, Canada.3 Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet4 Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet
Sight is undoubtedly not only important for food identification and selection but also for the modulation of gustatory sensitivity. We can, therefore, assume that taste sensitivity and eating habits are affected by visual deprivation from birth. We measured taste detection and identification thresholds of the 5 basic tastants in 13 congenitally blind and 13 sighted control subjects. Participants also answered several eating habits questionnaires, including the Food Neophobia Scale, the Food Variety Seeking Tendency Scale, the Intuitive Eating Scale, and the Body Awareness Questionnaire. Our behavioral results showed that compared with the normal sighted, blind subjects have increased thresholds for taste detection and taste identification. This finding is at odds with the superior performance of congenitally blind subjects in several tactile, auditory and olfactory tasks. Our psychometric data further indicate that blind subjects more strongly rely on internal hunger and satiety cues, instead of external contextual or emotional cues, to decide when and what to eat. We suggest that the lower taste sensitivity observed in congenitally blind individuals is due to various blindness-related obstacles when shopping for food, cooking and eating out, all of which contribute to underexpose the gustatory system to a larger variety of taste stimuli.