How is food represented in our brain?

Despite the central role of food in our lives, research has done little to discover how food concepts are organized in our brain. A review carried out at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste sorts out the knowledge gained so far, relating it to the current theories of semantic categorization. This in-depth analysis provides a useful conceptual framework for future research and for putting the different theories to the test. The paper was published in Psychonomic Bulletin Review.

Rumiati, professor at SISSA where she leads the INSuLa laboratory, and Francesco Foroni, SISSA research scientist, reviewed the research published to date on the topic.One of the novelties of their review is that it also considered papers dealing with brain-damaged patients. Very few studies have in fact investigated this aspect, so Rumiati and Foroni looked for those using food items as stimuli and then filtered the results through the lens of the most widely accepted theories of semantic categorization.

The first of such theories, the “sensory-functional” hypothesis, was put forward by Elizabeth Warrington, Rosaleen McCarthy and Tim Shallice in the 1980s. According to this theory, objects are divided based on the type of analysis elicited by the stimulus. In practice, this theory holds that living objects are for the most part examined in terms of their sensory features (colour, texture, taste, smell, etc.) whereas manufactured objects are analysed based on their function. This theory has interesting implications for food as it assumes that non-manufactured food (not cooked or transformed in any way) would fall into the second category (together with non-living objects) whereas “natural” food items (e.g., an apple) would be considered living objects.

A second, more recent theory (“domain-specific”), formulated by Alfonso Caramazza, holds that our semantic categorization processes have been moulded by natural selection. For this reason, we group objects into categories that are important for our survival (animals, plants, conspecifics, etc.). Unlike the sensory-functional hypothesis, this theory does not divide objects into living-non living categories and, with regard to food -a crucial category for survival- it assumes that relevant features may be both functional and sensory.

Rumiati and Foroni also examined the data from the standpoint of another type of semantic categorization which derives directly from embodied cognition theories. In this view, the categorization of objects is based on activation of the sensory and motor systems. An example might help to clarify the idea: hearing the word “red” would activate the brain regions specializing in colour perception, even though the colour red has not been directly observed. Exposure to a certain object (in this case a visual object evoked through the auditory channel) activates the sensory areas even when these have not been stimulated, and this activation makes it possible to understand and recognize the object we are experiencing. Seeing a tool like a hammer, for example, will cause activation of the regions controlling the hand muscles. In this view, exposure to food stimuli will lead to activation of the areas involved in taste perception even though these have not been directly stimulated by actually putting the food in our mouths.

The review shows that the picture is still too sketchy to allow one theoretical approach to predominate over the other. “Research into the semantic categorization of food is still too sparse”, explains Rumiati. “However, one important finding is that the “foodstuff” category itself can help researchers disambiguate among the various approaches even beyond this specific category: the food stimulus in fact cuts across the different domains, as it combines features of both living and non-living objects; additionally, it is fundamental for survival and is therefore of major significance in evolutionary terms”.

In their review, the authors also provide a schematic outline of predictions consistent with each of the theories considered. “This way, future researchers will have a reference they can turn to when planning experiments and stimuli”, adds Rumiati.

An important recommendation emerging from the review concerns experimental stimuli: more attention should be placed on the variables coming into play when a food stimulus is presented. “There are many dimensions involved: sensory features (e.g., colour), but also the level of ‘transformation’ of the food (is it natural or cooked?), and perceived calories (how nutritious is it?). These are all things that need to be controlled”, concludes the scientist. Rumiati’s group at SISSA have indeed developed a database, freely accessible to anyone, containing images of food that are standardized with respect to these variables and that may be very useful to those doing research in this field. The database is called FRIDA and can be accessed at

Lighthouse, two ships and a dolphin. Mosaic from Ostia Antica: Regio II - Insula VII - Piazzale delle Corporazioni (Square of the Corporations), Station (Commercial office) 46. Image source:

Ostia Antica, the harbor city of ancient Rome, was located at the mouth of the Tiber on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Today, August 17, is the Portunalia, a Roman festival dedicated to Portunus, the Roman god of keys, door and gates, ports and harbors. Portunus helps ships find safe harbor, and also watches over warehouses, especially those storing food for retail markets. This date in history marks the anniversary of the dedication of his temple near the Forum Boarium, which is still standing. His symbols are keys and an anchor, and his Greek counterpart is Palaemon.

This is a good day to bless your keys. The ancient Romans did this by solemnly tossing them into a fire, but I wouldn’t recommend that particular method. Their keys were iron, heat would have made them difficult to retrieve, and possibly melted them out of alignment…and many modern keys have plastic parts and microchips. Passing them through smoke wafting from incense with a prayer to Portunus seems like a much better idea.



a particular type of pixel art that appeals to me and which to some extents feels like a road not fully developed on is that with some level of uncertain back and forth between colour and line; dense, scratchy prints layered on top of uninterrupted swathes of colour, or which are slightly out of sync with the underlying colour pattern (as in the colour bleeding of old Spectrum games). i think the emphasis within contemporary pixel art is firmly on the mark-making side of this dynamic, where every part of the screen comes across as written and inscribed upon, chipped away at, and where even the simple outlines of more abstract or retro styles the emphasis is on the precision of their outlines and on seeing how each pixel is placed to build up the whole. the result is a kind of richly solid plane, whereas hybrid forms like the NES port of King’s Quest V give the impression of at least two forms of perception being superimposed, in a way maybe reminiscent of Paul Klee paintings where fields of colour identified with the “cosmic” are constantly marked and shaped by more earthly, creaturely scratches and imprinting shapes. or at least (as well as) things like game-&-watch carts or early arcade games which really did use multiple layers with a mix of static and computerised digital components (the arcade game Golly! Ghost! actually had a physical dollhouse inside the cabinet, with videogame characters projected onto the seperating screen…!).

since i like the style it’s something i tried experimenting with in things like magic wand and the harmony hardpack tape, your mileage may vary with the results but i enjoyed it and found to me even when conservatively applied it helped modulate the singular, self-contained aspect of the different modular sprites in favour of something that could be read more fluidly, all bleeding into different parts.i think a similar affect is achieved by newer games which layer postprocessing effects on top of pixel art. i like that mostly but i also feel there’s something specific to be said for the comparative clunkiness of the colour washes from Castlevania 3.

anonymous asked:

Woher weiß man das man eine Person wirklich liebt, bzw. ob man dieser Person etwas bedeutet?

Im Gehirn werden bei Liebe zwei Gebiete aktiv: Das Putamen und die Insula. Bei Hass sind diese jedoch auch aktiv. Du kannst also gar nicht unbedingt wissen, ob du die Person hasst oder liebst. 

Vida de insulamento. Voto de silêncio

770. Que se deve pensar dos que vivem em absoluta reclusão, fugindo ao pernicioso contacto do mundo?

“Duplo egoísmo.”

a) – Mas, não será meritório esse retraimento se tiver por fim uma expiação, impondo-se aquele que o busca uma privação penosa?

“Fazer maior soma de bem do que de mal constitui a melhor expiação. Evitando um mal, aquele que por tal motivo se insula cai noutro, pois esquece a lei de amor e de caridade.”

Allan Kardec – O livro dos espíritos, q.770 e 770a. #espiritismo #doutrinaespirita #olivrodosespiritos #projetoconhecersentirviverkardec

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