American experimental psychologist Dr. Linda Bartoshuk, PhD, is the assistant director and the Bushnell Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Florida Center for Smell and Taste. She is an international leader in taste research and a pioneer in developing new methods of psychophysical scaling. As a Presidential Endowed Professor of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science at the University of Florida, Bartoshuk is widely known for her work specializing in the chemical senses of taste and smell.
Born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in 1938, Bartoshuk embraced a passion for astronomy. At Carleton College in the 1950s, Bartoshuk realized that women were not welcome in the field. On a whim, she signed up for a class in experimental psychology and discovered a new area for her scientific explorations. With a father fighting lung cancer and a brother also suffering from cancer that resulted in taste symptoms, Bartoshuk was personally motivated to research taste and discovered that nerve and tissue damage from chemotherapy caused their “taste phantoms.” Bartoshuk put forth the concept that phantoms are actually caused by nerve damage.
After receiving her BA from Carleton College and her PhD from Brown University, Bartoshuk went on to explore the genetic variations in taste perception and how taste perception affects overall health. Bartoshuk was the first to discover that burning mouth syndrome, a condition that seems to be mostly experienced by postmenopausal women, is caused by damage to the taste buds at the front of the tongue and is not a psychosomatic condition as some of her contemporaries believed.
Bartoshuk was employed at Yale University prior to accepting a position at the University of Florida in 2005. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995. In 2003, Bartoshuk was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and is also a distinguished University of Florida William James Fellow Award winner.
Bartoshuk was the first to identify what she referred to as “supertasters,” those who have an unusually high number of taste buds and experience tastes more intensely than their fellow eaters. She was responsible for contradicting the concept of the tongue map that so many of us learned about in school, making the connection between ear infections and being overweight, and creating new magnitude scales to measure subjective experiences. Her current research focuses on the connections between taste damage and obesity and on methods for comparing taste or pain experiences across people.
Corporate influence in science is something Bartoshuk has been vocal about. She is on the front lines of making inroads for women in science, and early in her career, she faced sexism from multiple sources. She encourages young people interested in science to pursue what they love, as she has—even at 70, she says, she “still can’t wait to get into the lab every day.”
See also: Burning Mouth Syndrome; Supertaster; Taste System
Association for Psychological Science. (2010). Experimental psychology, inside the psychologist’s studio, taste. Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/video/linda-bartoshuk-itps.html
Bartoshuk, Linda. (2014). The measurement of pleasure and pain. Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Florida. Sage Journals. Retrieved from http://pps.sagepub.com/content/9/1/91.full
King, Camille Tessitore. (2004). On blue tongues, undergraduates, and science: An interview with Linda M. Bartoshuk. Teaching of Psychology, 31(3), 212—217. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ683185
University of Florida. (n.d.). Center for Smell and Taste. UFCST Faculty. Retrieved from http://cst.ufl.edu/faculty.html