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Registration open for third-annual neurogastronomy symposium

Registration is now open for the third annual International Society of Neurogastronomy Symposium, which will be held at UK on March 2-3, 2018.

Both day’s events offer continuing education credit.

This year’s symposium will explore the connection between brain and behavior in the context of food.

Luminaries from the worlds of science, nutrition and culinary arts will share their knowledge on a variety of topics, including the psychological influences on eating and behavior, the chemosensory properties of food and how we experience them, the role of food as medicine and the history and evolution of flavor and flavor perception.

The term neurogastronomy was coined by Dr. Gordon Shepherd, professor of neurobiology at Yale University – first in 2006 in an article in Nature and six years later in an eponymous book. While Dr. Shepherd has been interested in the concept from a research perspective, a group of neuroscientists, chefs and food scientists are enthusiastic about making it a clinical translational science, with applications in cancer, stroke, and brain injury (which can destroy the sense of taste) as well as diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The day’s format differs from the typical symposium, featuring brief presentations modeled after the popular TED talks and punctuated with breaks for tastings and a contest where food prepared by nationally acclaimed chefs Taria Camerino and Jehangir Mehta will be judged by UK HealthCare patients with diabetes.

Here is a link to video highlights from last year’s symposium.

This year, there is an experiential event on Friday, March 2: a five-course dinner with wine pairings by world-class sommelier Francois Chartier and bourbon flavor wheel instruction by Chris Morris, Master Distiller at the Woodford Reserve, plus interdisciplinary clinical neuroscience lectures.

For more information about the symposium, including a full list of speakers and how to register, visit isneurogastronomy.org.


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Chef Taria Camerino has "gastral synesthesia," meaning all of her senses are experienced as taste. She spoke about it at UK's Neurogastronomy Symposium.

2nd annual Neurogastronomy Symposium brings study of taste perception to UK HealthCare

More than 250 scientists, chefs, presenters and spectators gathered at UK HealthCare last weekend for the second-annual International Society of Neurogastronomy Symposium.

The term “neurogastronomy” was coined by Dr. Gordon Shepherd to describe a discipline of the biochemistry of food preparation, the molecular biology of the olfactory receptors, and the knowledge of odor images and the brain flavor system. The concept casts a wide net over several disciplines relevant to what we eat, why we like what we eat and how we eat. His life’s work was reflected in many of the topics covered at the symposium:

  • The evolution of food and flavor, from ancient times to the Middle Ages (when people considered food as medicine) to the rise of modern cuisine as an expression of vanity (rich, multi-course meals were a reflection of a person’s wealth and social status).
  • The complexities of flavor perception: humans have three receptors for vision (red, blue and green) and more than 1,000 receptors for odors.
  • New research into the anti-inflammatory properties of food (olive oil shares one of the same molecules as that found in ibuprofen, which might give insight into the effectiveness of the Mediterranean Diet).
  • The concept of food addiction and the potential role of stress reduction in decreasing the incidence of obesity.
  • An analysis of the debate whether food addiction is biological (like a drug addiction) or behavioral (like a gambling addiction).

But it was Taria Camerino who stole the show. Camerino, an acclaimed chef, has a condition known as synesthesia, which means she experiences all of her senses, even her emotions, as taste.

Symposium participants crowded the microphones to ask Camerino questions: “Do you taste feelings?” (yes – “Fear tastes like blood and metal.”) “What did the presidential election taste like?” (“Like bitter, but also like hope, plus something astringent… something chemical… I know! Hairspray! Wow… that’s really weird!”) And, perhaps the most poignant question: “Can you help me cook for my husband who had radiation? He can still smell, but he cannot taste, and he’s miserable.” (“Start having him smell things. Vanilla, shortbread, lavender. When he gets to a smell he likes, make something with that.”)

During breaks between presentations, attendees could explore one of nine stations that demonstrated how taste involves more than the tongue. One table offered three gelatin cubes – one black flavored with mango, one green flavored with strawberry, and one yellow flavored with fish – to emphasize how what we see on the plate sets expectations for what we’re about to taste.

For her station, Camerino made hundreds of “lollies” – lollipops are her signature confectionery – for participants to taste while listening to the first two minutes of the 1812 Overture. People came away from her station moved and amazed.

“I tasted bitter, and then sadness, and then something more herbal,” said one taster. “How did she get the lollipop’s flavor to swell and subside with the music?” marveled another.

The day culminated with a recap of the Neurogastronomy Challenge, where teams of chefs, neuroscientists and clinicians went head to head to prepare dishes for cancer patients Erika Radhakrishnan and Barry Warner.

“When you are on cancer treatment, your taste and smell are affected, and not in a good way,” said Radhakrishnan. “It’s encouraging to see that quality of life for cancer patients is no longer on the back burner.”

“I consider my taste loss collateral damage – and I’m OK with that in the grand scheme of things,” Warner said.

“But there are a lot of professionals in this kitchen looking for ways to make things better for us, and I really appreciate their enthusiasm.”


You can watch a playlist of the Neurogastronomy Symposium below. It includes an interview with Camerino, footage of her presentation and more.


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Neurogastronomy Symposium at UK HealthCare

Neurogastronomy Symposium at UK helps us understand taste and flavor

Dan Han, PsyD, clinical section chief of neuropsychology at UK HealthCare, works with patients who have brain injuries and neurodegenerative disorders, many of whom describe loss of smell and, in tandem, changes in the way food tastes.

These taste-related side effects piqued Han’s interest in neurogastronomy, a field of study that looks at how the brain influences a person’s perception of food. With the help of an internationally renowned chef, Han created the International Society of Neurogastronomy (ISN) and is hosting the second annual Neurogastronomy Symposium at UK HealthCare this Saturday, Dec. 5.

Enthusiastic about neurogastronomy

In 2012, Han met chef Fred Morin and discovered they shared a passion for neurogastronomy. Their conversation inspired Han to reconsider how this science could help patients with brain injuries or cancer.

Could foods be designed that adjusted for the flavor perception issues reported by these patients?

Two years later, Han, Morin and others co-founded the ISN with the intent to start answering this very question. Late last year, the ISN held its first symposium at UK HealthCare. Chefs, doctors, clinical psychologists, agriculturists, researchers and cancer patients gathered for the event, which included roundtable discussions and engaging presentations.

Second annual symposium

This Saturday, Han and company will host the second annual Neurogastronomy Symposium at UK, continuing their exploration of the concept of brain and behavior in the context of food. This year’s event will feature brief, TED talk-like presentations punctuated with breaks for tastings and a contest where the food from regional and national chefs will be judged by patients with taste impairments.

Han hopes that the ISN’s work can help clinicians better understand the importance of taste perception for a patient’s well-being. Indeed, he finds his own approach has been changed by his research.

“I ask every one of my patients now, ‘How’s your smell and taste? How is that aspect of your quality of life?’” Han said. “It wasn’t until I started asking that I noticed how many people will tell you that it has been compromised. But nobody’s asked about it and they never thought to bring it up because they never heard of mentioning that type of thing in the doctor’s office.”

“We’re trying to challenge that,” he adds, “so that patients undergoing treatment can recover their quality of life – a little bit at least.”


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Traditional dishes in some families can be powerful reminders of being with loved ones. But what if those important foods no longer tasted the same?

What is neurogastronomy? 3 experts explain

The end-of-year holidays are upon us, and for many, it’s a time made all the more meaningful by food. Dishes that are traditions in some families can be powerful reminders of coming together with loved ones to celebrate and reflect.

But what if the foods that elicit such strong memory and emotion in us no longer tasted the same? Certain foods hold so much sentiment in our lives, so how would we react if we could no longer have that experience? Our three guests on this week’s Behind the Blue podcast have been exploring that very idea of taste, smell and how our nerve receptors interpret that information.

Dr. Dan Han is a UK neuropsychologist and the director of Neurobehavioral Studies at the UK Sports Medicine Research Institute. Tim McClintock is a UK physiology professor working in neural regeneration. And Ouita Michel is a nationally acclaimed chef and owner of the Holly Hill Inn.

Together, they are forging new paths in a field called neurogastronomy, which examines how the brain creates taste perceptions. Their work is taking them into areas of learning how to change and enhance the mechanics of the flavors of foods, how we experience them and how this may impact the world in areas of clinical and nutritional science, both on a personal and a global level.

You can listen to the whole podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.


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