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A complex relationship among chemical concentration, detection threshold, and suprathreshold intensity of bitter compounds.

School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia.
Chemical Senses (Impact Factor: 3.28). 04/2007; 32(3):245-53. DOI: 10.1093/chemse/bjl052
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Detection thresholds and psychophysical curves were established for caffeine, quinine-HCl (QHCl), and propylthiouracil (PROP) in a sample of 33 subjects (28 female mean age 24 +/- 4). The mean detection threshold (+/-standard error) for caffeine, QHCl, and PROP was 1.2 +/- 0.12, 0.0083 +/- 0.001, and 0.088 +/- 0.07 mM, respectively. Pearson product-moment analysis revealed no significant correlations between detection thresholds of the compounds. Psychophysical curves were constructed for each bitter compound over 6 concentrations. There were significant correlations between incremental points of the individual psychophysical curves for QHCl and PROP. Regarding caffeine, there was a specific concentration (6 mM) below and above which the incremental steps in bitterness were correlated. Between compounds, analysis of psychophysical curves revealed no correlations with PROP, but there were significant correlations between the bitterness of caffeine and QHCl at higher concentrations on the psychophysical curve (P<0.05). Correlation analysis of detection threshold and suprathreshold intensity within a compound revealed a significant correlation between PROP threshold and suprathreshold intensity (r=0.46-0.4, P<0.05), a significant negative correlation for QHCl (r=-0.33 to -0.4, P<0.05), and no correlation for caffeine. The results suggest a complex relationship between chemical concentration, detection threshold, and suprathreshold intensity.

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