Can You Describe The Physiology Of The Human Tongue?


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Steve Theunissen Profile
A unique organ, the tongue is a very mobile bundle of muscles covered with an extremely sensitive surface. The muscles in the tongue can flatten it, curl up the tip and even the edges when you whistle. These movements are possible because the muscles in the tongue are interwoven and go in several directions. There are muscles that start at the tip and extend toward the back. There are muscles that go generally from side to side. And there are those that go up and down. These all help to give the tongue its various movements.

The tongue's surface is made up of numerous small projections that give it a somewhat velvety feel. (In the cat family tongue projections are big enough and hard enough to give the tongue's surface the feel of a rasp.) These small projections (called "papillae") can be seen easily by protruding your tongue and drying a small area with a soft, clean cloth. If one does this, one will note that there are different types of elevations.

The most numerous ones are the pink, slender, threadlike structures that are uniformly distributed over the surface of the tongue. These are usually the first to disappear in some diseased states, including certain nutritional disorders.

Another kind of small projection is like little rounded bumps on the tongue's surface. There are fewer of these mushroom-shaped elevations, and they are generally a little redder than the others. They also disappear at times.

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