Taste in chimpanzee: I. The summated response to sweeteners and the effect of gymnemic acid

G. Hellekant, Y. Ninomiya, G. E. DuBois, V. Danilova, T. W. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to investigate further with electrophysiological and behavioral techniques the similarity between the sense of taste of humans and chimpanzees, especially with regard to the effects of gymnemic acid. Gymnemic acid (GA) is a powerful suppressor of sweet taste in humans but lacks this ability in nonprimates and lower primates. The summered taste responses from the chorda tympani nerve were recorded in nine adult chimpanzees. Pan troglodytes. The results show that all tested compounds that taste to humans elicited nerve responses in chimpanzees. GA suppressed or abolished the response to all sweeteners, but had no effects on the responses to the nonsweet compounds. The suppression varied from complete abolishment (aspartame, saccharin), to about 50% reduction (xylitol). When the effect of GA was tested on concentration series, 20% remained of the response to sucrose, whereas the responses to aspartame and saccharin were basically abolished. Higher concentrations of GA suppressed more. The effects of GA developed also in the presence of saccharin, but seemed less pronounced. The behavioral results were obtained with a one-bottle preference technique before and after GA. The results demonstrated that after exposure of the tongue to GA, the animals' liking for sweet diminished. These results parallel psychophysical and electrophysiological findings in humans. The way GA suppressed sweet taste in chimpanzees added one more characteristic to those that set chimpanzees apart from monkeys and close to humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-479
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful for permission to study the chimpanzees at the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP), New York Medical Center, Tuxedo, NY, USA. This study was supported by grant NIH AA09391.


  • Aspartame
  • Chimpanzee
  • Chorda tympany nerve
  • Electrophysiology
  • Gymnemic acid
  • One-bottle preference test
  • Saccharin
  • Sweetener
  • Taste


Dive into the research topics of 'Taste in chimpanzee: I. The summated response to sweeteners and the effect of gymnemic acid'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this