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May 3, 2024

The Fascinating Journey of Food Perception: From Sight to Brain

BY Marc Mathys
Have you ever wondered what happens in our brains when we see food? It’s not as simple as see-food-eat-food. There’s a complex and fascinating series of reactions taking place in our brains that begins the moment our eyes take in the sight of food. Here’s a closer look at this intricate procedure. 
**1. Visual Processing: The First Encounter** 
The journey begins in the occipital lobe, the visual processing center of the brain. As soon as our eyes catch sight of food, the occipital lobe jumps into action, interpreting the colors, shapes, and details of what we’re seeing. 
**2. Recognition and Memory:Triggering the Past** 
Next, our brain recognizes the food. This phase often involves triggering memories associated with it. For instance, the sight of a childhood favorite dish might bring back warm memories of family dinners. This process of recognition and memory recalling occurs in the hippocampus and amygdala, areas of the brain pivotal for memory and emotional reactions. 
**3. Reward System Activation: The Pleasure Principle**
 Simultaneously, the brain’s reward system, primarily the nucleus accumbens, gets activated. This results in the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s associated with feelings of pleasure and reward. It’s this release of dopamine that often makes eating such a joyous experience. 
**4. Appetite Control: Taming the Hunger Beast** 
The hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls appetite, also plays a significant role. If you’re hungry, the sight of food will stimulate the urge to eat. The hypothalamus sends signals to the rest of your body, preparing it for food consumption. 
**5. Salivation: Prepping for the Main Event** 
The brain also sends signals to the salivary glands, prompting them to start producing saliva in anticipation of eating. This process is part of the digestive process, preparing your body to break down the food. 
**6. Emotional Response: More Than Just Sustenance** 
Lastly, food can elicit a strong emotional response. Certain foods can trigger feelings of comfort, excitement, or even nostalgia, thanks to the limbic system, the emotional center of our brain. Remember, these reactions can vary greatly from person to person. 
Factors such as personal food preferences, dietary restrictions, past experiences with food, and current hunger levels all influence how we react to the sight of food. This complex interplay of processes highlights just how integral food is to our lives, beyond mere sustenance. It’s a sensory experience, an emotional journey, and a trip down memory lane, all rolled into one. 
The next time you see a plate of food, take a moment to appreciate the intricate ballet of neurological activity that’s making your meal so much more than just a way to satiate hunger.
 Food for thought indeed!

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Hello I’m Marc the creator of the Reset-it program and a TedX speaker.

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