Gordon Shepherd, author of Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters, recently talked with The Chronicle of Higher Education about his book.
In the article Shepherd discusses the science behind neurogastronomy and the ways in which we now have a better understanding of how the brain and our sense of smell inform our perception of flavor. In particular “smell images,” which are the basis for perception of flavor. Shepherd writes: “These smell images are hidden factors that determine most of the pleasure we get from eating, and they share the blame for the problems we incur when eating foods that are not good for us.”
Indeed, flavor and the pursuit of spices used to cause wars but now it has led to an epidemic of overeating and obesity. Shepherd argues that neurogastronomy can help us understand and combat such problems. He believes it is necessary for scholars in a variety of fields, including neurogastronomy, to work together to get a better sense of why and how the brain craves certain flavors.
Unfortunately, the fast-food companies maybe ahead of the game:
Shepherd laments the many contributors to poor modern diets—fast-food companies conspicuous among them. He says they commandeer taste vulnerabilities and make virtual addicts of consumers. Research has shown, he notes, that early exposure to flavors, including those that fast-food scientists tinker with to suit their companies’ ends, influences humans’ food-consumption patterns for life. In one sense, he says, he conceives of his book as a neurobiologist’s addendum to Eric Schlosser’s best-selling book, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).