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Do you like tonic water? Scientists say that people with bigger brain typically have a very particular opinion about it

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Posted February 5, 2019

Some people absolutely hate tonic water. Other ones say they cannot live without it. For some it is just way too bitter, while others say that its bitterness is mild and delicious. And it is not surprising – different people have different tastes. But now scientists from the University of Queensland say that people who love tonic water may have bigger brains.

A little known fact – tonic water will fluoresce under ultraviolet light and appears visibly fluorescent in direct sunlight. Image credit: Splarka via Wikimedia

It was the first time brain size and taste perception had been linked and many people are bound not to like these news. Brain size and intellectual ability have been linked long time ago. Humans have the biggest brain to body ration between all animals. In fact, no other primates have brain the size of ours. However, no one ever thought that perception of flavour can be linked to the size of the brain, because perceptions are typically limited to the psychology and not actual physiology of the human body. So what about tonic water?

Tonic water was originally created as a prophylactic measure against malaria, but now it is typically enjoyed just as a casual beverage. Tonic water is bitter due to dissolved quinine, which is actually what is used to treat malaria and babesiosis. Tonic water is a carbonated soft drink, usually enjoyed in a cocktail form, particularly in gin and tonic. Many people find tonic water by itself too bitter, but other ones find it enjoyable. Now scientists say that usually people with bigger brains would find tonic water delicious, because they don’t feel the strong bitter flavour.

Scientists invited more than 1600 participants in Australia and America to rate their perceived intensities of different sweet and bitter taste solutions. Then MRI was used to measure the size of their brain. Scientists found that those people who had a bigger left side of the entorhinal cortex (an area of the brain responsible for memory, odour and visual perception) found quinine to be less bitter. Dr Daniel Hwang, one of the authors of the study, said: “The findings have implications for improving dietary behaviour and treating eating disorders. By targeting specific areas in the gustatory cortex, we could treat eating disorders using methods such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, a non-invasive treatment currently used to treat mental illness”.

And so if you love tonic water you can go around bragging about your bigger superior brain. Actually, not so fast. Scientists are saying that people with bigger brains enjoy tonic water more often. But they are not saying that everyone who enjoys tonic water has bigger brain. Furthermore, taste is acquired – many people change their minds about tonic water after several cans. Either way, it is interesting that the size of the brain and taste perception can be linked like that.

Source: University of Queensland

 

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