October 2, 2007 at 8:28 am
People have different tastes in music, fashion, and literature, but could some people have a different sense of taste literally? A recent scientific study suggests that “women with anorexia have distinct differences in the insula — the specific part of the brain that is important for recognizing taste… It is possible that individuals with anorexia have difficulty recognizing taste, or responding to the pleasure associated with food. Because this region of the brain also contributes to emotional regulation, it may be that food is aversive, rather than rewarding.”
Everyone has the same data input device for taste: the tongue. However, whatever data your tongue feeds to you brain has to be processed and organized for you to make sense of it. All our perceptions of the world ultimately happen in our brain. You can have perfectly working eyes, but if your visual cortex is damaged you won’t be able to see anything. The scanner’s working, you just don’t have the drivers installed on your computer to use it. It’s interesting to think that different people might process taste input in different ways.
This study makes me wonder if the reverse might be true too, that people who overeat get a greater hit of pleasure from food than other people. Maybe I really do enjoy Ho-Ho’s more than other people! That’s all speculation on my part, but I do think it would be fascinating to live in someone else’s brain for a day. I’d love to take note of different thought patterns or differences in the way they perceive the world. What does the world look like to someone who is red-green color blind? Do they actually see different colors than us or do all the reds look like greens or all the greens look like reds? Do tone-deaf people actually perceive no difference between flat and sharp notes? When schizophrenic people say they hear voices does it really sound like someone is talking to them?
I’d be really curious to live inside the brain of someone who dislikes foods I love. I know one person who doesn’t like chocolate. Does chocolate actually taste different to her? Or does it taste the same but for some reason her brain processes the input as negative instead of rewarding? I’ve never liked the taste of coffee, but it would be fascinating to experience those ground up beans through the mind of someone who likes them.
Anyone up for a brain transplant?