2006 Conference on Neuroesthetics

Flavors of Experience

Scientists & Artists look at how and why the brain responds to such things as gourmet food, fine wine and aromatic perfumes

From fine food and wine to perfume and aromatherapy, the stimulation and satisfaction of our senses of taste and smell has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. One reason is that, as human beings, memories are enhanced by our senses. The experience of a gourmet meal is one that is long remembered. The perfume of a passing stranger recalls the embrace of an old love.

Why is this? What brain pathways do these products activate and how are these pathways connected to the brain’s memory system? Are there pleasure centers in the brain that are specifically devoted to taste and smell? What criteria do chefs, wine makers, and perfumers – as artists – use to judge that their products will entice us? These questions will be addressed at this year's meeting on Neuroesthetics: Flavors Experience.

Billions of dollars are spent annually, by both consumers and producers, on fine food, wines and perfumes. A good dinner is a pleasure that may be long remembered, while smell and taste can bring back long forgotten memories stretching back to childhood, as was immortalized by Marcel Proust's description. Why is this? What brain pathways do these products activate? How are these engaged areas of the brain connected with the memory system? Are there pleasure centers in the brain that are specifically devoted to taste and smell? What criteria do chefs, wine makers, and parfumers – as artists – use to judge that their products will have appeal? These questions, of interest to such artists as well as to their patrons, will be addressed at this year's meeting on Neuroesthetics.

The Fifth International Conference on Neuroesthetics
January 21, 2006