What is the role of magnitude matching in the diagnosis of taste and smell disorders?

Updated: Jan 08, 2021
  • Author: Eric H Holbrook, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Suprathreshold testing involves assessment of the patient's perceptions of taste intensities at levels above threshold. One method of measuring this quality is with a psychophysical procedure known as magnitude matching.

Other tests of suprathreshold tastes have involved assigning numbers to their sensations, but no direct comparison across individuals can be made. Specific numbers, such as 10 or 100, do not have any intrinsic psychologic value.

Conversely, magnitude matching makes use of one sensory modality that is presumed to be normal (in this case, hearing) in comparison to a deficiency in another sensory modality (taste) by using the following procedure:

Several concentrations of sodium chloride, sucrose, citric acid, and quinine hydrochloric acid, along with several loudness levels of a 1000-Hz tone, are provided for the magnitude matching task. The patient sips each solution and expectorates, and the tones are presented via headphones. The patient provides estimates of perceived magnitude for each stimulus. The results are scaled in relation to loudness functions to reveal abnormalities of taste as depressed psychophysical functions. In other words, patients with hypogeusia associate stronger taste concentrations with weaker tones than normal patients. The major limitations of this testing modality are its dependence on normal hearing and its complicated design, which takes a significant amount of time to administer and analyze.

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