Wine tasting and your brain.

Wine tasting and your brain.

     It's rare that I delve into any Cognitive Science or Neuro-imaging but  when it comes to wine, that's what we're going to do. Turns out what you do consistently will alter and change your brain. There's a new study called Human Brain Mapping that shows how sommeliers that taste often show actual structural and physical changes in their brains compared to folks that are only social or casual drinkers.

     When one undergoes the specific practice of wine tasting, especially when deductive tasting, there is a literal reshaping of the brain where you gain superhuman powers! Just like the mythical Ninjas and modern day Daredevil with heightened senses of taste and smell. With daily training your speaking skills will improve also because of the articulation needed to convey the descriptions of wine. 

     In Spain, an institution called the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language decided to see exactly how intensive wine training materializes in the brain. When one is immersed in various pursuits like music, learning a new language and even playing sports reveals profound brain shape and function changes. 

     The crew in Spain had 2 groups of people in the study broken into experienced sommeliers and the other group social/non consistent drinkers. Then the fun part began! Blind wine tasting. During the tasting the volunteers were tested by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). There were two whites and two reds, Spanish of course. A gustometer system was used to send specific amounts of wine into the mouths of people during the MRI. All participants got the same amount of wine.

     Then the folks were asked to describe the wine including smell, taste and how balanced a wine is. I can already see how the non trained people would be at a great disadvantage. The MRI illustrated that different regions of the brain are accessed depending if you were a sommelier or casual drinker.

     The temporal region of the brain controlling tasting and language fired off more for the trained sommeliers than the casual drinkers.  Casual drinkers needed more effort to distinguish differences verbally. Sommeliers brains were showing varied patterns when confronted with high complexity versus low complexity wines. Casual drinkers showed no change which mirrored their descriptions.

     Non trained tasters spoke of all wines in a similar manner. Sommeliers had a greater ability to analyze the wines by how complex the wine was which proved that the perceptual and cognitive changes were real and exhibited by the test.

   While it does take time to get skilled at blind tasting anyone with a willingness to taste wine can benefit from this information. Choose good wine and enjoy. It's good for your brain.


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