Mmm… discovery of a ‘taste map’ in
the brain

While traditional tongue taste map is actually false, it now appears that a sort of ‘taste map’ does exist in the brain. In a study published in Science, a team led by neuroscientist Charles Zuker of Columbia University has shown that different clusters of neurons respond to bitterness, sweetness, saltiness, and umami (the “savoury” flavour of mushrooms and meat). The researchers monitored the activity of neurons in the gustatory cortices of anesthetized mice and employed a relatively new technique in which fluorescent dyes are used to track intracellular calcium waves. Separate neural clusters were activated when the mice were fed bitter or sweet compounds. These results fly in the face of numerous previous studies that show neurons involved in taste to be broadly tuned such that the same neuron can respond to more than one flavour. Unfortunately, the researchers could not find neurons that responded to sourness, whereas other labs report them to be highly prevalent.

— Anastassia Pogoutse
Source: Science Daily

From dating to mating: why a deep voice leaves a lasting impression on
the ladies

You know what they say about big hands? As it turns out, the same can be said for deep voices. In a study published in the September issue of Memory & Cognition, scientists asked what basso profundo opera singers and Vin Diesel have in common. According to the article, the answer is genetic sex god status. Female participants observed pictures of everyday objects (like a fish or a microscope) and simultaneously heard the name of the object spoken either by a low-pitched or a high-pitched male or female voice. Later in the experiment, participants saw objects from the previous task mixed with new objects. They were asked to identify which objects they had seen before, a measure indicating of their long-term memory for these objects. The results showed that women had better memory for objects named by the deep male voice than for those named by the higher male voice. However, they did not show this pitch-based memory discrepancy for objects named by a female voice. The authors suggest that women have better memories for deeper voices because of the evolutionary implications of vocal pitch. A deep voice indicates a healthy, masculine mate — which means he’s worth keeping in mind for “future reference.”

— Erene Stergiopoulos
Source: Memory & Cognition

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