The gustatory system is a gateway to nutrient sensing, yet it is the least understood of our senses. We ask how taste information flows from tongue to cortex, how taste is represented and encoded within the human brain, and how neural taste processing links to and determines behavior. To address these questions, we continuously develop precise stimulation techniques and experimental protocols suited for time-sensitive measurements like M/EEG and we are assessing the reliability, validity, and practicality of these procedures.
Taste perception has long been overlooked in sensory assessments. This can, at least in part, be attributed to challenges associated with the handling of liquid, perishable stimuli, but also with scarce efforts to optimize testing procedures to be more time-efficient. We have introduced an adaptive, QUEST-based procedure to measure taste sensitivity thresholds that is quicker than other existing approaches, yet similarly reliable. We are using bottled taste solutions to make the test procedure portable. The threshold procedure is computer-controlled and the experiment is presented via a web interface. It works for taste, smell, and trogeminal thresholds alike and can be compared to other procedures. All data are fuly encrypted and savely stored for download. If you are interested to use the algorithm let us know!
Have you evered wondered whether we can memorize taste? We have – that’s why we started a new project to investigate the properties of taste memory. We ask: Can we store taste information? What is the capacity of this store? What are the rules for optimal retrieval?
As part of the Competence Cluster Nutrition Research NutriAct we are investigating neurobiological, psychological, and social bases of food choice and the role of the familial environment on nutritional behavior within the NutriAct Family Study. For this we combine cross-disciplinary expertises and methods sich as nutritional and psychological questionnaires, antropometry, biomarkers, activity, taste and smell tests, psychological experiments of food choice and perception, and qualitative interviews.
We constantly sample our environment for information or cues that arouse expectations about future events. What are the neural mechanisms by which expectations shape taste perception? What are the behavioral consequences of our neural states representing food in contexts? What is the role of prior experience and knowledge on taste and food perception? The results are not only exciting but bear the potential to lead to immediate application in food advertisement and packing but also nutritional interventions (framing).
We have, together with Jens Blechert (Salzburg) and Niko A. Busch (Münster), developed a comprehensive database consisting of over 1,000 food and non-food images and relevant meta data for research on food perception, eating, and appetite. You can find more information here: www.eat.sbg.ac.at/resources/food-pics