Monday, November 15, 2010

Flavor Perception

The physiology of flavor perception describes how we exactly perceive flavor. Many of the cortical regions that serve for smell also serve for taste. Most of the focus pertains to the orbitofrontal cortex(OFC) as oppose to the primary olfactory cortex. The OFC is where responses from taste and smell first come together. This process begins with the OFC receiving input from the primary cortex areas in taste, the inferotemporal cortex, and somatosensory cortex. The OFC has many bimodal neurons, which serve more than one sense at a time. The OFC is the cortical center for detecting flavor and perception representation of all foods. The response of neurons in the OFC help to control food intake.

In a recent study, researchers studied color, coolant, and aroma interactions to determine their impact on flavor perception. The main goal of the study was to examine how flavor perception is affected by the chemical stimulation of free nerve endings that result in sensations, such as cooling or hot. The researchers also tested the assumption that congruency between stimuli can be learned through experience. Subjects rated flavor and cooling intensity by rating stimuli on a scale of range from congruent and incongruent combinations. The results showed that the level of coolant affected cooling perception and aroma affected flavor perception. They also found that the presence of the aroma enhanced the cooling intensity and the mere presence of of the coolant increased melon intensity. The results show that there is a perceptual interaction between olfactory and chemical stimuli.

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