“75-95% of what we call taste is really smell.”
Charles Spence, a professor in Oxford University’s psychology department and head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, studies neurogastronomy–how our brains perceive the flavor of food.
Through his scientific research, Spence is re-shaping both the culinary world–influencing some of the world’s greatest chefs–and the average diner’s experience. Essentially, Spence is proving that our brains play a much greater role in the way we engage with foods than many of us think.
According to neurobiologist Gordon Shepard, “the brain draws on all senses to assemble a complex flavor image that lingers in our memory.” Memory plays a large role in our perception of food, activating dopamine reward centers that lead us to crave certain flavors.
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, our modern food environment has spoiled us in ways our ancestors never knew. The variety of foods that provide us pleasure (i.e. desserts, sweets) is far greater than what was offered even a century ago. As a result (in combination with other factors), our society has developed unhealthy eating habits.
As scientists continue to make tremendous strides in research on taste, will they help solve our problems and find a way to make broccoli taste as good as chocolate?