Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Music and Food Smound Good Together

Posted By on Wed, Mar 3, 2010 at 5:02 PM

Music can enhance -- or ruin -- the eating experience. Everyone's had a memorably bad experience that included food. Carrington and I had an epic terrible meal at a Mexican restaurant where the Chipmunks Christmas album played at high volume, over and over. The food was probably not good before that, but the music left a cacophonic taste in our mouths.

click to enlarge smoundstoon.jpg
There's finally science to back it up. Researchers are investigating the idea that food smells could possibly be related to the sounds we hear when we consume them.

The connection between smell and sound, a hybrid sense dubbed "smound" is discussed in the Journal of Neuroscience and reported at Discover magazine.

Researcher Daniel Wesson got the idea when he was studying the olfactory tubercle, a structure at the base of the brain that aids odor detection. He was observing mice when he put his coffee mug down. The clunk of the cup hitting the desk produced a spike in the mice's olfactory tubercle activity.

Further research confirmed that 65 percent of tubercle cells were activated by at least one of the five odors presented to the mice. After a couple more promising rounds of experimentation, Wesson and his team sent a mix of odors and tones into tubercle cells and saw that responses from 29 percent became either enhanced or suppressed depending on the presence or absence of the second stimulus.

In other words, the sound either improves or dulls the food experience. There's either a lot that can be done with that information, or everyone already knew that -- it's hard to tell which.

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