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Unpacking The Connection Between Taste And Memories

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June 26, 2021

Social media has been unlocking memories for us! Every day you go online, you can find an image of a forgotten toy, game, or food from your childhood that unlocks a memory, but did you know that tasting something can do the same!

Have you ever watched the scene in Ratatouille where the food critic Anton Ego tastes the Ratatouille and is transported to a vivid memory of his childhood? If you haven’t, here’s a quick recap.

It’s not just an animation; it happens in reality too. The taste of a chocolate chip cookie might take you back to sitting in the kitchen with a tall glass of milk.

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Maybe a bologna sandwich has you thinking about watching your favorite cartoon! Whatever your memory is, there’s some scientific reasoning behind it.

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This phenomenon of memories that are associated with food is known as conditioned taste aversion. It is the association between foods and illness so that we may avoid those foods in the future.

That’s similar to how we avoid foods that we don’t like or give us an upset tummy. For instance, if you eat fish and you get sick, you associate the food with being sick, and you avoid eating fish in the future!

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But the sensation works a little different for things we like, especially sweet things. The great memories you experience when eating sweet things can be because our center for rewards is activated.

Like how Sheldon Cooper tries to change Penny’s behavior by feeding her candy, sweet things were rewards when we did good things during our childhood. But your memories from your childhood stem from all the great sweet things you’ve eaten!

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So you might get a whiff of a memory from a beach day when you eat ice cream. You might even experience the need for a treat after doing some of your chores or even specifically around a holiday.

Or you can unlock a memory like Anton Ego from one of your favorite childhood dishes. Maybe yours is a bowl of mac and cheese or even your grandma’s lasagna!

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As you’re eating, your brain works to remind you of great things that happened whenever you ate a specific food. It’s not just childhood; it can even be a memory of meeting someone!

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Your brain works amazingly; just from a taste of something, you’re transported to the joy and happiness you felt when eating it in the past. Now that you’re craving the taste of nostalgia grab your favorite childhood snack and enjoy!

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