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Neuroscience For Kids

Can It Really Be That Sweet?

Created by Bill James, Milford High School, Highland, MI

[Lesson in PDF]

Chapter/Unit

Sensation and Perception: Taste

Overview

Synsepalum dulcificum is the plant that produces the taste-altering berry known as the "Miracle Berry/Fruit." The plant itself originates from West Africa, where it is widely used before meals. The active ingredient in the miracle berry/fruit is miraculin. Miraculin is a protein that binds to the sweet taste receptors on the tongue, causing sour and bitter foods to taste sweet. Scientists have yet to discover why miraculin appears to have this effect on certain taste receptors, but some hypothesize that miraculin briefly alters the shape of the sweet taste receptors, making them responsive to bitter and sour tastes.

Important Note

As with any experiment/activity that calls for students to ingest a product, please be sure to get permission from the students parent(s)/guardian(s) prior to conducting the activity. It is also very important to get administration approval before you engage this activity.

There does not appear to be any known side effects from this tablet/berry. Since the tablet/berry does not change any chemical compound of any of the foods that are used, they will retain their high acidity. Be careful not to ingest high quantities of highly acidic foods, this can lead to oral ulcers (due to high levels of acidity).

Purpose

Increase knowledge of how taste receptors can be tricked/altered, which produces an opposite sensation.

Resources/Materials

Procedure

Results

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