Desensitization to oral zingerone irritation: Effects of stimulus parameters

John Prescott*, Richard J. Stevenson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


In humans, repeated oral stimulation with the irritant capsaicin produces sensitization or desensitization, depending on the temporal relationship and, to a lesser extent, the intensity of the stimuli. We have previously shown that zingerone, an irritant present in ginger, shows only desensitization across repeated samples, as well as following a hiatus in stimulation. Because the time-course of zingerone irritation differs from that of capsaicin, it is likely that optimal temporal and other stimulation parameters may also be different. In Experiment 1, we examined the effects of stimulus intensity (0.5%, 1.0%, 2.0% zingerone) and the number of successive stimuli in a series on psychophysical responses to zingerone irritation within the series and following a 5-min hiatus. Experiment 2 examined the effect of the duration of this hiatus on desensitization and recovery. Desensitization was apparent across the initial series of stimuli in both experiments and, irrespective of zingerone concentration, in Experiment 1. Desensitization also occurred following the 5-min hiatus, evident primarily at the higher concentrations. Preceding the hiatus with 5 or 10 stimuli produced the greatest posthiatus desensitization, but a decrease in rated intensity was also evident following a single stimulus. Experiment 2 showed that the optimal hiatus for demonstrating desensitization was 5 min and that, by 15 min, recovery had begun. In both experiments, individual differences in response were marked, with some subjects showing sensitization and others little change in response across repeated zingerone stimuli. The origin of these differences is unclear but were shown to be relatively stable across multiple sessions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1473-1480
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Desensitization
  • Individual differences
  • Intensity
  • Interstimulus interval
  • Irritation
  • Zingerone


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