It's all about food! 

We use the following techniques to achieve our goals:
       • Psychophysical investigations of chemosensory perception
       • Electroencephalographic measures and functional neuroimaging of brain activity
       • Modelling of perceptual and cognitive processes
       • Development of methods for the presentation of food stimuli in a laboratory environment

Some of our research projects are outlined below ...

Gustatory perception
  • How are the most pertinent taste features, intensity, quality & hedonics, represented along the central gustatory processing pathway? Can they be dissociated? 
  • How is the peripheral signal from distinct taste receptors used by the central nervous system to encode taste quality?
  • Most protocols to measure taste thresholds are lengthy and cognitively strenuous - we test various psychophysical approaches adopted from other sensory modalities (e.g. SIAM, QUEST) for their reliability, validity, and practicability to measure gustatory thresholds using liquids.
  • In how far does taste perception relate to physiological (e.g. taste receptor cell expression), psychological (e.g. cognitive control), and epidemiological (e.g. food intake patterns, familial situation) factors across the lifespan?
  • collaborators:
    • Maik Behrends, Wolfgang Meyerhof, Heiner Boeing, German Institute of Human Nutrition (within the cluster of excellence Nutritional Interventions for Healthy Aging (NutriAct) funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research)

Food perception and obesity
  • What is the relation of body weight and taste perception, specifically taste sensitivity and hedonics?
  • What are the neural mechanisms of weight-related alterations in taste perception?
  • Is excess weight associated with attentional bias toward food? Is it reversible after bariatric surgery and weight loss?   
  • collaborators: 
    • Arno Villringer, Max-Planck Institute for Cognitive Sciences, Leipzig (within the SFB 1052 Obesity Mechanisms)
    • Agnes Floel, Charité University Medicine, Berlin
    • Niko Busch, University Münster 
    • Isabell Mack, University Hospital, Tübingen 

Multimodal interaction and integration
  • Food perception is multisensory in nature; the visual appearance (e.g., color), smell, taste, sound (e.g., crunchiness), texture (e.g., creaminess), and temperature of a food influence its perception and, eventually, all attributes together determine whether or not this food will be accepted. 
  • What are the behavioral benefits and cortical processes underlying multisensory interaction and integration during food perception involving the chemical senses?
  • The project combines behavioral and neuronal measures with modelling of perceptual processes.
  • collaborators:
    • Johan Lundström, Karolisnka Institute, Stockholm
    • Janina Seubert, Stockholm University
    • Jessica Freiherr, Aachen University

Contextual modulations of taste perception
  • We constantly sample our environment for information or cues that arouse expectations about future events (e.g., the smell of fresh baked goods suggests their availability). 
  • What are the neural mechanisms by which expectations shape taste perception? What are the behavioral consequences?
  • What is the role of prior experience and knowledge?
  • collaborators: 
    • Ulrike Toepel, CHUV, Lausanne
    • Werner Sommer, Humboldt University, Berlin

Visual food perception
  • Together with Jens Blechert, Adrian Meule and Niko Busch, we have developed a comprehensive database,, comprising images of food and non-food objects for research of food perception, eating, and appetite.
  • contains 568 photos (plus 328 in the extended set) displaying food items with simple figure-ground composition, including sweet and savoury foods, high and low calorie, warm and cold dishes, processed and raw foods. It also contains comparable non-food images (n=314). The following attributes are specified for each food picture:
    • Nutrients: mg of protein, fat & carbohydrates, kcal
    • Rating data (palatability, desire to eat, complexity, recognizability, valence, arousal by  almost 2000 participants from German speaking countries and North America)
    • Image properties: R/G/B values, brightness, contrast, complexity (edge detection), luminance, spectral power (Matlab scripts here)
  • collaborators: 
    • Jens Blechert & Adrian Meule, University Salzburg and Niko Busch, University Münster 

Nutritional neuroenhancement

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