Neurogastronomy 101: The Science of Taste Perception
[…]To truly comprehend what neurogastronomy is about, it’s important to
understand the basics of how we physiologically perceive taste. Not
surprisingly, it all begins with our mouths and ends with our brain.
When you chew on a blueberry, enzymes in your saliva break down the
fruit. Fragments of the gnawed blueberry will come in contact with your
tongue’s papillae — the thousands of wart-like bumps under the mucous membrane of the tongue. Each papillae
has anywhere from 50 to 100 taste buds, which have chemical receptors
that identify the five basic tastes: bitter, sweet, salt, sour, and
umami. The papillae also have many sensory cells that recognize
and analyze the morsels in your mouth, and transmit the information to
your brain by activating nerve cells.
This, on a macro level, explains how we go from popping a blueberry
in our mouth to recognizing whether it is sweet or sour. The micro level
is far more multifaceted, as many other parts of our body play a role in how we perceive taste, from our olfactory senses to the sensation of touch. Understanding the complex brain processes that help us grasp why, what, and how we eat is, simply put, the exploration of neurogastronomy.