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Drink G&T? You may have a bigger brain

In a world-first study, brain size and taste perception have been linked, suggesting that people who drink and enjoy tonic water may have bigger brains. 

In a collaboration between the University of Queensland, the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and Monell Chemical Senses Center – and published in Behavioural Brain Research – researchers identified that brain size doesn't just relate to how smart people are but also to how bitter they find tonic water. 

"Everyone wants to know why we like certain foods and why individuals have preferences for bitter or sweet tastes," said UQ Diamantina Institute postdoctoral research fellow Dr Daniel Hwang. 

"It was unclear if brain size affected anything other than a person's IQ, but now we can show it relates to how we perceive food and drink."

"Whether you enjoy tonic water or not, people with bigger brains typically find it less bitter."

In other words, if you enjoy the taste of tonic water with your gin, you may have a bigger brain than those who don't. 

More than 1,600 participants in Australia and America rated their perceived intensities of different sweet and bitter taste solutions, with the size of their brain then being measured using an MRI scan.

"We found that the left side of the entorhinal cortex, an area of the brain responsible for memory, odour and visual perception, was larger in people who found quinine to be less bitter, "Dr Hwang continued.

"Quinine is a key ingredient in tonic water and is commonly used to assess people's response to a bitter taste." 

The results increased understanding of the gustatory cortex, the part of the brain that processes taste signals and generates taste sensations, he reflected.

"Our study is a step towards understanding exactly how the brain perceives taste. 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," he concluded. 

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