Cal State University long Beach researcher Betty McMicken and Long Wang, left, have been working with Kelly Rogers, center, who was born with the rare condition Isolated Congenital Aglossia (born without a tongue). The three highlight the testing process where Rogers would sample clear liquids and describe the taste. Friday, December 12, 2014, lengthy Beach, CA. (Steve McCrank / staff Photographer)


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Cal State University lengthy Beach researcher Betty McMicken and Long Wang have been working through Kelly Rogers, who was born v the rare problem Isolated Congenital Aglossia (born there is no a tongue). A picture diagram shows Rogers' mouth wherein the basic of the mouth acts as a tongue. Friday, December 12, 2014, long Beach, CA. (Steve McCrank / staff Photographer)


LONG beach >> brand-new research by two professors at Cal State long Beach indicates that people may not need tongues to speak or taste.

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Working through Kelly Rogers, a Saddleback college student who was born there is no a tongue but has been able to speak since she to be a child, Betty McMicken, associate professor in the room of Speech-Language Pathology, and also Long Wang, assistant professor of nutrition in the room of Family and also Consumer Sciences, uncovered that she detect all simple tastes.

The research may lead to assist for those who have actually partially or fully lost their tongues — v a procedure dubbed a glossectomy — because of cancer or other reasons.

“She’s changing the vocal shape, horn, the resonator,” McMicken said. “So the more we know about that, the an ext we can help individuals who have had injuries or surgery. The other thing is the we have actually not discover taste in individuals who have had glossectomies, partial glossectomies, head and also neck cancer, also neurological deficits.”


McMicken, a professor, clinician and also researcher in speech-language pathology for more than 48 years, was recently graced with the “Honors of the Association” native the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, which recognizes people in communication sciences and disorders for excellence in the locations of teaching, research, community service and professional expertise.

She and also Wang have actually been looking right into isolated congenital aglossia, the rare condition in i beg your pardon a human being is born there is no a tongue. Rogers, their test case, is among 11 human being recorded in clinical literature since 1718 to have actually the condition, and there room fewer than 10 in the world today who have it, McMicken said.

She and Rogers an initial met in 1986 when Rogers, who learned to talk at a young age with muscles in her mouth and also throat, came down on Western Medical center in Santa Ana to check out if doctors can reconstruct she jaw at the period of 16.

McMicken and also a team the doctors determined that surgical treatment would impact Rogers’ capacity to speak. However McMicken never ever forgot Rogers. She and a clinical team recorded audio and video of Rogers speaking.

It was around 25 years later on that she started trying to find Rogers. The two connected in 2012 ~ a Press-Telegram article around McMicken’s research and her pursuit to locate Rogers, who eventually became the professor’s research study assistant.


With Rogers as their check subject, McMicken and also Wang conducted several test on taste, and also parts of she mouth and throat if she spoke.

In addition to she speech, they discovered she can detect the major tastes, from sour and sweet come bitter and also salty. The study contained her identifying tastes from liquids blended with flavoring, and also it to be the first to display umami — the taste from glutamate, one amino acid discovered naturally in plenty of foods — as detectable by a human without a tongue.

The muscle massive in the floor of her mouth has actually been accumulated through year of speaking. The mass contracts and relaxes and she is able come touch the muscle to she palate. Other structures the the mouth are associated in Rogers’ capability to speak.

One the the more interesting aspects of Rogers’ condition, the researchers said, was the she has had no clinical intervention.

“What we’ve to be observing is the natural condition, the natural progression,” Wang said. “Because Betty pertained to know Kelly virtually three decades ago and every the records are here, it’s been really fascinating to follow someone because that so long.”

Rogers is one of the co-authors on a document about the taste experiment, published online in august in the newspaper of dental Biology and also Craniofacial Research.

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Her parents to be told by medical professionals she can never be able to speak normally, if at all. She stated while cultivation up, human being didn’t believe she to be without a tongue, due to the fact that she spoke so well. Rogers plan to examine speech-language pathology in ~ CSULB.

Like other college students, she enjoys stout beers.

“I just had this beer, Xocoveza, through Stone,” she said. “Oh my gosh. Great stuff.”

McMicken claimed Rogers is a distinctive case, and also continued research studies will prove beneficial for people who will require their tongues completely or partially removed.

She looked in ~ Rogers and also said, “I’ve obtained a lot to learn from you.”