Ever noticed how flavours can transport you through time? Food is linked to these powerful memories and emotions thanks to an information superhighway that connects chemical receptors in the mouth and nose with parts of the brain devoted to emotions.
Our noses are packed full of odour receptors – each with an uncanny ability to precisely detect many different combinations of smells. On the flip side, our mouths have the more mundane task of making sure we’re not eating foods that are potentially poisonous. The delicate nerves that line the tongue and mouth sort through food textures, making sure food is good enough for us to swallow. They’re so precise that we can even feel chocolate as it melts.
Taste receptors have also recently been identified all through the digestive tract and even in your brain. In the intestines, these receptors are thought to be communicating to the surrounding tissues and nerves. The receptors ‘taste’ how your digestion is proceeding and work to modulate the secretion of digestive enzymes.
It’s the taste receptors clustered in regions of the brain that are currently baffling scientists. These receptors have the ability to influence neural function, although how and when remains a mystery.