The Neuroscience of Flavor
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved. Flavor is one of the most multisensory, not to mention the most enjoyable, of our everyday experiences. The experience of flavor involves the neural integration of taste (gustatory), smell (olfactory), and, on occasion, trigeminal inputs. Oral-somatosensory, visual, and auditory inputs can also modulate our experience of food and drink, though researchers working in the field disagree about whether or not such cues should be considered as constitutive of flavor. Over the last few decades, researchers have learnt a great deal about the network of brain areas that are involved in the construction of both the sensory-discriminative and hedonic aspects of our multisensory flavor experiences. The representation of flavor in the human brain involves the relevant primary sensory areas (situated in limbic and paralimic cortex and in unisensory neocortex) as well as a number of association, or integration, sites, such as the insular cortex and orbitofrontal cortex. The scientific study of the brain on flavor is sometimes referred to as "neurogastronomy." One important distinction to be drawn is between the flavor expectations that normally precede consumption and the flavor experiences that follow, with the former typically influencing the latter more than many of us realize. This chapter also briefly covers the significant influence of branding, pricing, and labeling on the brain's response to flavor, as we rarely experience food and drink in the absence of such cues.