Purdue SPIT Lab Saliva, perception, ingestion, tongues

Food should taste good. Even when it’s healthy for you. Even when you aren’t healthy.

We believe everyone deserves nutritious food. But in order for food to be nutritious, you have to eat it. If it tastes gross, or if you are sick and struggle to chew, swallow, or taste your food, eating is hard. Our team of scientists, led by Dr. Cordelia Running, study saliva, perception, ingestion, and tongues to try to solve these problems.

Learn more about the science, or join a study!

Here’s some of what the SPIT Lab is doing now. You can also make an account at: https://my.redjade.net/signup/spitlab if you’d like to hear about new studies (you may qualify for paid studies involving eating things).

Water should not feel like slime!

In collaboration with Dr. Georgia Malandraki and I-EAT Lab, we’re looking to use flavors to help people with swallowing disorders (dysphagia) be able to drink more easily and safely. When someone has trouble swallowing liquids (like water or coffee), beverages can get sucked into their lungs, leading to pneumonia. To stop this, liquids are typically thickened, which helps the beverage stick together during swallowing. Trouble is... no one wants to drink slimy water!

Here at the SPIT and I-EAT labs, we’re hoping to help fix this. We are testing how special flavors might be able to help folks swallow, without the need for those nasty thickeners. Stay tuned in coming months for how that goes!

Spit makes flavor! Or does flavor make spit?

We’re looking into how bitter or astringent flavors interact with your saliva. There’s proteins in your spit that likely cause those astringent (dry, rough, constricting) feelings when you eat certain types of chocolate, tea, red wine, persimmons, and many other foods. We want to know what happens to those proteins as you eat those foods, and if we can change how those proteins work. Maybe if we can, we could make the “bad” flavors like bitterness and astringency weaker.

Want to read Dr. Running's and the SPIT lab's publications? Check out the Purdue University e-Pubs repository here!

Meet a scientist!

The team: Ciera Crawford (graduate student), Dr. Jonathan Kershaw (post doctoral researcher), Miguel Odron (laboratory technician), Cameron Wicks (undergraduate student), and Dr. Cordelia Running (bosslady, with her incorrect caffeine molecule).

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