CWG BEAN TO BAR COMPASS


Chocolate Neurogastronomy

A  Chocolate is consumed and taste buds in the mouth receive information.  B  After swallowing, exhaled air pushes the aroma molecules into the nasopharynx.  C  Olfactory receptor nerves (ORN) are stimulated by the aroma molecules and send this information to the Olfactory Bulb (OB).  D  The information gathered within the OB is transferred to the Olfactory Cortex (OC).  E  It is combined with information from all our other senses and processed in our brain which includes the areas of memory and emotion.  F  All this combined forms our retronasal flavour image.

A Chocolate is consumed and taste buds in the mouth receive information. B After swallowing, exhaled air pushes the aroma molecules into the nasopharynx. C Olfactory receptor nerves (ORN) are stimulated by the aroma molecules and send this information to the Olfactory Bulb (OB). D The information gathered within the OB is transferred to the Olfactory Cortex (OC). E It is combined with information from all our other senses and processed in our brain which includes the areas of memory and emotion. F All this combined forms our retronasal flavour image.



A detailed look at the process of eating chocolate



A. Consume Chocolate

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When consuming chocolate, it’s important to bite it a few times and move the bits and melting chocolate around in your mouth. This is because taste buds are not only found on your tongue, but all over the inside of your buccal cavity.

These taste buds don’t pick up “flavours” such as cherry or chocolate, but rather pick up the 5 tastants, which includes sweet, sour, bitter, umami, and salty. This information is sent to your brain via the spinal cord.

B. Exhale

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Everytime we swallow, we automatically exhale. This is probably the most important aspect of getting the most flavour out of your chocolate. As we exhale, the aroma saturated air in our mouth is pushed into our nasopharynx and out through our nostrils. The air that passes through here carries the aroma molecules to our olfactory receptor nerves which extend into the epithelium. They sit at the roof of your nasopharynx. These olfactory receptor nerves (ORN) grow directly from the brain and into the nasopharynx. They are the only part of our brain that extend outside the cranium.

The reason this step is so important, is that each time we exhale, we send more and more aroma molecules to these receptors. This is why it is important to constantly exhale through your nose as you try and "taste" and articulate the flavours in your chocolate. The more you exhale, the more information you offer your ORN and the easeir it will be to interpret the flavour.

C. Olfactory Bulb

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Here is where things begin to get more complex. Know that there are about 400 types of olfactory receptor nerves, and even more individual nerves of each type. All these olfactory receptors within the nasopharynx join together at glomeruli within the olfactory bulb. Think of the glomeruli as meeting sites for each type of olfactory nerve.

Specific aroma molecules activate specific neurons. These neurons meet in the Olfactory Bulb (OB), and match up with other like neurons with the same receptors into the glomeruli. Depending on which neurons become excited, their corresponding glomeruli create a pattern in the olfactory bulb. It is this pattern which represents what the aromas are.

However, the olfactory bulb doesn’t determine the aroma or flavour. This pattern is sent to the Olfactory Cortex (OC) where the pattern is transcribed into something the brain can understand.

D. Olfactory Cortex

This is where the external world meets our internal perceptions. The pattern “image” formed in the OB is received here, and processed according to the information already stored in our brains.

E. Memory & Emotion

This information is also sent to the areas of the brain that pertain to your emotions, memory, and decision making. At this point, our judgements and preferences kick in and we respond to the flavours accordingly.

F. Other Senses

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The retronasal olfaction system is also tied with our other senses. As a whole, all these inputs add up to form our perception of the flavour we just encountered.