food

Scientists Say This Is Why We Love Looking At Delicious Food Pics

food, scientists say this is why we love looking at delicious food pics

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Whether it’s pretty pastries, ooey-gooey pasta bakes, or glistening steaks, one pastime that never seems to get old is looking at pictures of food. And while you may prefer to either scroll through a never-ending Instagram feed or keep it old school and flip through the pages of a cookbook, admiring food photography has become a collective obsession, and scientists might have just discovered why.

Food can impact mood. In fact, The New York Times explains that gut microbes have been known to produce neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that can positively alter mood. But, can a photo of a juicy cheeseburger or golden fried chicken have the same effect on us?

Throughout evolution, Brain & Cognition explains that visual clues have helped us determine the safety and quality of various foods. In fact, our sense of sight is even what dominates our perception of taste, according to The Guardian. Consequently, aesthetics have always been instrumental in how we experience food, but that can be true even when eating isn’t part of the equation. Beyond a primal need for sustenance, the sight of food can also trigger a unique response in the brain.

Photos Of Food Stimulate The Brain Thanks To Its Cultural Significance

food, scientists say this is why we love looking at delicious food pics

Cheeseburger

Discovered unintentionally, MIT researchers have recently stumbled across a population of neurons that are exclusively stimulated by images of food. Located in the ventral visual stream where visual information is received and processed, this new category resides alongside previously-discovered populations that respond to faces, bodies, places, and words.

While more research is still needed, Today reports that the responses to various food imagery can shed light on one’s familiarity and preference of a food, in addition to suggesting its significance in culture based on its role in social interactions, religious practices, and cultural identity.

That said, not all food imagery is processed the same way. Bon Appétit explains that upon analyzing brain scans, researchers found that cooked and processed foods tended to evoke a particularly stronger response in comparison to raw foods — keep that in mind the next time you snap a pic for social media.

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