What Is the Link Between Smell and Taste?

Smell and taste are linked in that a person's brain merges messages about taste and smell, permitting a person to detect the flavor of a food, explains BrainFacts.org. When an odor and taste are experienced together, a person makes an association between the two sensory experiences, so that the smell of a food influences its taste, and the taste of a food influences its smell, notes Scientific American.

When a person is unable to smell a food, he may discover that the food tastes different. In fact, the food has the same taste, but a person is not able to perceive the food's flavor because his brain is not receiving any olfactory messages, according to BrainFacts.org. The lack of ability to perceive flavor is what causes an individual to perceive that a food tastes differently.

Specialized sensory neurons in the roof of the nose detect odorants, which causes axons to move to the two olfactory bulbs beneath the brain's frontal lobe, states BrainFacts.org. Each odorant causes different activity to take place within the brain. Eventually the orbital cortex of the brain receives the olfactory information and combines it with taste information to create a flavor perception.

Taste buds detect tastants in food, reports BrainFacts.org. Each taste bud contains 50 to 100 specialized sensory cells, and when these cells are stimulated, each cell transfers a signal to the nerve fibers. The signal is then sent to the brainstem's taste regions. Next, the thalamus receives the impulses and finally relays these impulses to a certain area of the brain's cerebral cortex.