Scientists have discovered a new population of neurons in the ventral visual stream that can react as soon as a person sees food. What happens is that a part of the visual cortex lights up, as MIT scientists led by MIT postdoc Meenakshi Khosla discovered, according to NeuroScienceNews.com.
To come to the new discovery, the neuroscientists had to analyze a large public database that consisted of responses to 10,000 images. The research is indeed outstanding, considering that each person has about 86 billion neurons. If we connect all the neurons in a person’s body, we will obtain a structure that’s hundreds of kilometers long.
Lead author Khosla explained, as the same source mentioned above quotes:
We think that food selectivity had been harder to characterize before because the populations that are selective for food are intermingled with other nearby populations that have distinct responses to other stimulus attributes. The low spatial resolution of fMRI prevents us from seeing this selectivity because the responses of different neural population get mixed in a voxel.
Surprisingly or not, the newfound population of neurons is located near populations of brain cells that respond in a specific way to bodies, words, faces, and places.
Here’s what Paul Rozin from the University of Pennsylvania has to say, as the same source quotes:
The technique which the researchers used to identify category-sensitive cells or areas is impressive, and it recovered known category-sensitive systems, making the food category findings most impressive.
Contrary to some findings, we may be unable to grow new brain cells after we begin our adulthood, according to another study that NewScientist tells us about. Therefore, learn to take good care of your neurons, as you won’t get new ones once you’ve reached adulthood!
The new study was published in Current Biology.