Tastes and Brain
And using this method, we and other labs, have investigated how long a time it takes from "food lands on our tongue" until our brain has figured out which taste it's experiencing. Turns out this occurs within the first already 100 milliseconds, that's about half a second before we even become aware of it. And next up, we also investigated the taste difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners that in our setup taste extremely similar. In fact, they tasted so similar that half my participants could only barely tell the taste apart, while the other half simply couldn't. But amazingly, if we looked across the entire group of participants, we saw that their brains definitely could tell the taste apart.
So with EEG and other brain-scanning devices and other physiological measures - sweat and pupil size - we have new gateways to our brain. Gateways that will help us remove the barrier of the conscious mind to see through the biases of people and possibly even capture subconscious taste differences. And that's because we can now measure people's very first response to food before they've become conscious of it, and before they've started rationalizing why they like it or not. We can measure people's facial expressions, we can measure where they're looking, we can measure their sweat response, we can measure their brain response. And with all these measures, we are going to be able to create tastier foods, because we can measure whether people actually like that sugar-reduced milkshake. And we can create healthier foods without compromising taste, because we can measure the response to different sweeteners and find the sweetener that gives the response that's more similar to the response from sugar.
And furthermore, we can just help create healthier foods, because we can help understand how we actually sense food in the first place. Which we know surprisingly little about. For example, we know that there are those five basic tastes, but we strongly suspect that there are more, and in fact, using our EEG setup, we found evidence that fat, besides being sensed by its texture and smell, is also tasted. Meaning that fat could be this new sixth basic taste. And if we figure out how our brain recognizes fat and sugar, and I'm just dreaming here, but could we then one day create a milkshake with zero calories that tastes just like the real deal? Or maybe we figure out that we can't, because we subconsciously detect calories via our receptors in our gastrointestinal tract. The future will show.