Acquiring Taste and Smell

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From left, panelists Kathryn Morgan, Gary Beauchamp, and Joan Marrinan listen to Susan Watterson describe getting a sense of the flavors of foods as she’s cooking.

Last night’s Neuroscience and Society series event was a feast for the senses and the mind, from hearing stories of training noses and palates to trying to train or at least understand our own.

The session, “How Your Brain Distinguishes Tastes and Aromas,” started with a quick science primer by Gary Beauchamp, director and president of Monell Chemical Senses Center. In broad strokes, our conscious taste perception involves the tongue, palate, and part of the throat, while odor perception has two paths: sniffing (orthonasal) or swallowing food, which drives the smell upward to olfactory sensors in the nasal cavity (retronasal).

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