The gustatory system is a gateway to nutrient sensing, yet it is the least understood of our senses. We ask how taste information flows from tongue to cortex, how taste is represented and encoded within the human brain, and how neural taste processing links to and determines behavior.
Food perception is multisensory: the visual appearance (e.g., color), smell, taste, sound (e.g., crunchiness), texture (e.g., creaminess), and temperature of a food influence its perception and, eventually, all attributes together determine whether or not this food will be accepted. What are the underlying brain mechanisms?
Have you ever wondered whether we can memorize taste? We have – that’s why we started a new project to investigate the properties of taste memory. We ask: Can we store taste information? What is the capacity of this store? What are the rules for optimal retrieval?
Within the Competence Cluster Nutrition Research NutriAct, we investigate the determinants of food choice in the NutriAct Family Study. We ask how taste/smell perception relates to attitudes, food intake, and familial situation across the lifespan? We combine cross-disciplinary expertise from psychology, epidemiology, sociology, and nutrition science as well as qualitative and quantitative methods.
We constantly sample our environment for cues, which let us predict future events. What are the neural mechanisms by which expectations shape taste perception? What are the behavioral consequences of our neural states representing food in contexts? What is the role of prior experience and knowledge? The results bear the potential to lead to immediate application in food marketing and nutritional interventions (framing) and are hence part of NutriAct.
We examine vulnerable populations to assess their ability to taste and smell and the effects of changed chemosensory perception on food choice and psychological factors such as quality of life. Here, we also test to potential of taste and smell training to slow down or compensate loss.
Food is fuel for our brains. How does nutrition affect cognitive performance? We compared the efficacy of different types of enhancement (nutritional, mental, pharmacological) in an interdisciplinary project, which emerged from the European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences, and the Humanities, funded by the VolkswagenStiftung.
To address our research questions and to boost the rigor in chemosensory and food research, we continuously develop methods and experimental protocols and we test the reliability, validity, and practicality of these procedures.
Check out some of my Research Papers
Chemosensory sensitivity – quick and reliable approaches to measure taste, smell, and trigeminal sensitivity – ideal in clinical settings and large
Höchenberger R, Ohla K. (2020). Repeatability of taste recognition threshold measurements with QUEST and quick Yes-No. Nutrients. 12(1), 24.
Höchenberger R, Ohla K. (2019). Estimation of Olfactory Sensitivity Using a Bayesian Adaptive Method. Nutrients. 11, 1278
Höchenberger R, Ohla K (2017). Rapid Estimation of Gustatory Sensitivity Thresholds with SIAM and QUEST. Frontiers in Psychology 8:981.
Food.Pics – a database of food and non-food photographs for research on food perception, eating, and appetite
Blechert J, Lender A, Polk S, Busch NA, Ohla K. (2019). Food-pics_extended—an image database for experimental research on eating and appetite: additional images, normative ratings and an updated review. Frontiers in Psychology 10:307.
Blechert J, Meule A, Busch NA, Ohla K (2014). Food-pics: an image database for experimental research on eating and appetite. Frontiers in Psychol. 5:617.
Precision gustometry – a template for the construction of a portable and modular stimulator for taste and lingual touch
Andersen CA, Alfine L, Ohla K, Höchenberger R (in press). A new gustometer: Template for the construction of a portable and modular stimulator for taste and lingual touch. Behavioral Research Methods 51: 2733-2747
Cetoni’s blog: A taste for precision
Ohla K, Busch NA, Lundström JN (2012). Time for Taste-A Review of the Early Cerebral Processing of Gustatory Perception. Chemosensory Perception 5(1):87-99.