Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, discovered neurons that respond to pictures of food, writes the magazine “Current Biology”.
According to the researchers, it is possible that these neurons evolved because of the evolutionary and cultural importance of food to humans.
For the purpose of the study, eight volunteers were shown around 10,000 different images while their brain activity was monitored.
The results suggest that pictures of food activate a population of neurons in the visual cortex that process visual information.
The discovery puzzled scientists because food is not a “homogeneous category”. Participants were shown pictures of food products that did not resemble each other – apples, macaroni, corn. However, the brain responded to all images in the same way.
The reaction to cooked food, for example pizza with cheese, is more pronounced than to raw fruits and vegetables. Neurons were also activated when seeing pictures of chips and other snacks. The type of photography (color or black and white) had no effect.
Scientists hypothesize that these neurons evolved over the course of evolution to provide a shortcut to finding food. They remained undiscovered for a long time because they are not concentrated in one place, but are distributed in different groups.