The Taste-Brain-Gut-Eating Connection, Work Performance and Sleep, More On Memory, Nanoplastics And Brain Degeneration

Andy Hab
5 min readDec 3, 2023

Your weekly roundup on all things in the brain

Your Taste-Brain-Gut-Eating Connection

The season of goodwill is fast approaching — and Thanksgiving has just passed in the USA — that means a lot of goodwill…and a lot of stuffing our faces with all types of food.

Healthy eating advice has often recommended eating more consciously and slower. Sometimes difficult when faced with a plate full of juicy turkey with all the trimmings. One of the reasons for this advice is that you will eat less because it allows your stomach and gut time to send signals to your brain that you have had sufficient food. The thinking was that sensory cells in the gut communicate to the brain and therefore start limiting food intake.

However, recent research has shown that that is not how it works.

Also fascinating is that Pavlov of the legendary eating and conditioning experiments proposed in the 1930s that taste of food impacted desire to eat, and some experiments in the 1970s and 1980s seemed to support this but this has almost been forgotten in recent years. Not least because the brain cells that control this sit deep in the brain stem and are hard to research.

Enter Truong Ly and colleagues at the University of California who managed to develop new techniques and to discover a new taste pathway. First off, they put food directly into the gut of mice and saw that brain cells called PRLH (for prolactin-releasing hormone) were activated by nutrient signals sent from the gut. This is the classic model and has been well-researched.

However, when they let the mice eat normally, the gut pattern didn’t show up but the PRLH cells were activated by a network stimulated by the mouth through taste.

This make sense but these signals can also be contradictory — they can be “this tastes good, eat more”, or , alternatively, “this tastes bad, eat less”, or “I am beginning to eat too much” — which you will observe will lower the value of taste. The third portion of turkey never tastes as good as the first!

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Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!