If you're a wine lover we have some great news for you! According to a study carried out by professor Gordon Shepherd, a leading neuroscientist from the Yale School of Medicine, drinking wine engages more of the brain than any "other human behavior." So next time you think your brain is in need of a challenge, skip the crossword puzzle or Sudoku and grab a small glass of wine.
In his recently released book, "Neuroenology: How the Brain Creates the Taste of Wine," Dr. Shepherd declared that sniffing and analyzing wine before consuming it requires "exquisite control of one of the biggest muscles in the body." The muscle in question here is the tongue. When you are swirling wine around your mouth, your tongue's intricate muscles get to work along with thousands of taste and odor receptors. Dr. Shepherd claims that this overall process engages our brain more than listening to music or solving a trick math problem.
In an interview with the National Public Radio in the US, he stated that "the molecules in the wine don't have taste of flavor, but when they stimulate our brains, the brain creates flavor the same way it creates color." He explains this phenomenon as follows, "the objects we see don't have color themselves - light hits them and bounces off. It's when light strikes our eyes that it activates systems in the brain that create color from those different wavelengths. Similarly, the molecules in wine don't have taste or flavor, but when they stimulate our brains, the brain creates flavor the same way it creates color."
Dr. Shepherd has spent many years studying how the brain processes flavor, and he declares that his research shows that taste is more subjective than was previously thought. He states that more attention should be paid to the drinker than the wine, since everyone uses their own frame of reference to process taste, and this is "heavily dependent on our own memories and emotions and those of our companions" at the time. Furthermore, additional factors such as age, gender, and the genetic make-up of our saliva can impact how wine tastes.
While it is typical when wine tasting to spit out the wine into a bucket, Dr. Shepherd states that swallowing it is a major part of the tasting process. If you spit the wine out, you will not be able to fully appreciate its complex flavor.
Furthermore, he also states that wine molecules create emotional and sensory reactions to humans, which may actually spark cognitive functions such as pattern recognition, memory, and pleasure.
However, he cautioned against overdoing it, saying that after a few sips "people are just downing the stuff. If you take too large a sip, you've saturated your system.
Therefore, if Dr. Shepherd is right, it can be concluded that drinking wine in moderation is good for you. So, slip slowly and often - doctor's orders.