Texture affects liking or rejection of many foods for clinically relevant populations and the general public. Phenotypic differences in chemosensation are well documented and influence food choices, but oral touch perception is less understood. Here, we used chocolate as a model food to explore texture perception, specifically grittiness perception. In Experiment 1, the Just Noticeable Difference (JND) for particle size in melted chocolate was ~5 μm in a particle size range commonly found in commercial chocolates; as expected, the JND increased with particle size, with a Weber Fraction of ~0.17. In Experiment 2, individual differences in touch perception were explored: detection and discrimination thresholds for oral point pressure were determined with Von Frey Hairs. Discrimination thresholds varied across individuals, allowing us to separate participants into high and low sensitivity groups. Across all participants, two solid commercial chocolates (with particle sizes of 19 and 26 μm; i.e., just above the JND) were successfully discriminated in a forced-choice task. However, this was driven entirely by individuals with better oral acuity: 17 of 20 of more acute individuals correctly identified the grittier chocolate versus 12 of 24 less acute individuals. This suggests phenotypic differences in oral somatosensation can influence texture perception of foods.
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