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What Happens To Our Brain When It Sees Images Of Food?

The new study published in the journal Current Biology is significant because it reveals the special influence food have on our human culture.

Ever marvelled why restaurants emphasise on the dressing and presentation of food served, at times much more than its taste? Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found out that not only the taste of food sways our taste buds, but the visual appearance too elicits response in a particular part of our brain, reports MIT News.

The new study published in the journal Current Biology finds that when we look at foods, a specialised part of our visual cortex lights up because of food sensitive nerve cells.

The ventral visual stream, where the visual information is processed for visual perception, spots these food-responsive neurons. They lie near other neuron groups that respond specifically to faces, bodies, places, and words.

The researchers believe that this unanticipated discovery may reveal the special influence of food on human culture. Nancy Kanwisher, a professor at MIT, told MIT News that food is core to so many elements of human activity. It has a major influence on our cultural identity, religious practice, and social interactions.

“Food is central to human social interactions and cultural practices. It’s not just sustenance,” Kanwisher adds.

For this research, a publicly available database of human brain responses to a set of 10,000 images was analysed. Neuroscientists are perplexed about the development of this neural population.

They further hope to study how people’s feedback to certain foods might vary depending on their likes and dislikes, or their closeness with certain types of food.

There are still many unanswered questions looming ahead for the researchers. MIT News says that the researchers also hope to study when and how this region becomes specialized during early childhood, and what other parts of the brain it interacts with.

They will further try to find an answer to whether this food-selective population is unique to humans or is also found in other animals such as monkeys, who do not add the cultural relevance to food that humans do.


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