Flavortown in the Brain: Localizing generators of hedonic food response in the forebrains of foodies

Ebenezer J. Canard1, Beuter Murphy-Scroggler5, Brodegar M. Bumteese21, Gerbert H. Brondlecrakes3, Grigori G. Gregorovitch15, Odovacer S. Posthletwat3, Burtessa K. Thorpstrule4, Cranpy O. Dieuwknopp8, Bumpapa Humojewo3, Tewdy V. Biggoms16, Alpin F. Sackbritch3, Mel Butz3, Todd Coleslaw13, Isambard St. Bede3, Salacious B. Crumb14, Peepst van der Brouwerij3, Alfreth Q. Rennock20, Thevabell von Tueter3, Botolph M. Jones5, Hogerdine d’Arp3, Grangle Grangles7, Hortense W. Peasegood III3, Idelina Beaudrolais3, William Not3, Godolphin T.  Saxifrage19, Pitbull10, Wippo G. Uvedale13, Malachy Smotherbea1, Trusl U. Gibbs8, Hooble B. Pewpletrop17, Pansard S. Mackwife12, Inigo Bones6, Ethel M. Mermaid3, Æfthelfwyfth X. Sexburga1, Old Tootsaby Jones2, Bunsaby O. Abnerwyne9, Mungo F. Budspeth3, Eugenipe Elderbean20, Odi A. Hofka22, Summat Newtish10, Banksy17, Druulpa A. van Hoop2, Marpule J. Howdy-Baggot19, Burf T. Fardlequardt11, Winke(y) van Houtermaams3, Ambrose Q. Dunnet14, Ryan van Bœkhouding12, Babbs O’Dinkum3, Pimble C. Numptyfroth15 

1 Department of Electroneurophysiology, Cranberry-Lemon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA 2 Center for Investigative Neurocriticism, University College London, London, UK 3 Department of Rural and Agrarian Neuroscience, Alabama University, AL, USA 4 Division of Neurotrigonometric Medicine and Clinical Geometry, Aberystwyth Medical College, Cardiff, UK 5 Department of Electropsychological Neurofumbulation, University of the Hague, Den Haag, NL 6 Groots Denken Hersenplaats, Leiden University, Leiden, NL 7 Department of Neural Arts, Savannah College of Art & Design, Savannah, GA, USA 8 Department of Speculative Neuroscience, The Phoenix University, World Wide Web 9 Institute of Neuroscientifical Research, Pontifical Academy of the Arts, Sciences, Trades, and Idle Pursuits, The Papal States, Vatican City 10 RCA Records, New York City, NY,11 Department of Clinical Grumblescience, The Closed University, Milton Friedman, UK 12 Molecular Neurosociology Unit, Samuel Adams University, New Podunktown, MA, USA 13 Department of Bungled Brain Science, What Question Mark University, Huuuuuuuuuuurptown Junction, PA, USA 14 The Burpley Memorial Center for Translational Psychogeology, Queen Beebletums College, Martha’s Vineyard, MA, USA 15 Division of Potato Medicine and Clinical Neuromancy, Idaho University School of Macaroni Arts, ID, USA 16 Mother’s Basement University, Mom’s Basement, Home, USA 17 Undetermined affiliation 18 Department of Burps, Toots, and Other Unwholesome Noises, McCrary Hospital for the Criminally Brainless, The Black Void, Dimension 9, Outer Space 19 Farplebeezer Institute for Neural Interconnectivity 20 Department of Antique Neuroscience, University of South North Dakota School of Medicine, Hoople, 21 Unseen University 22 The Learned Society of Corpulent Shamans, Infantry Division, 

Abstract

If it weren’t for the oral and tasty pleasures of a big juicy burger or some table side guacamole, the human experience would be unquestionably grimm. While scientists have mapped out links to tasting mediocre and even peanut butter and jelly level flavors, there has been no effort to determine the neurological mapping of that place your mind goes after the first bite of something truly wonderful. With no hard scientific evidence, some experts even suggest that there is no flavortown center of the brain and that it’s only a metaphorical state of mind! Using a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) this paper discusses the likely real locations of flavortown within the minds of the human brain. In this study, fMRI’s are taken of participants in a base state, while ingesting bland flavorless food, and while ingesting a cheese burger cooked with maximum flavor.  After demagnetizing a bowl of raisinless oatmeal and a cheeseburger after undergoing an electron polarity randomizer, fMRI brain activity revealed the true location of flavor town in the Parietal and Frontal lobe. According to the Flavortown Induction Evoked Response Index (FIERI) results, we found it and it objectively feels like heaven [30]! 

Keywords: Neuroscience, fMRI, probable-flavortown Consciousness (PFtC), Flavortown, Mouth Feels, Food Science

1. Introduction

     The search for a hypothetical flavortown has brought many neuro/gastronomic scientists, culinary experts, and enthusiasts of the gustatory arts across America’s diners, drive-ins, and dives. After groundbreaking research establishing the existence of a gustation-evoked state of maximum hedonic impact [1,2], a new theory has gained traction that maybe flavortown is not so much a physical condition but a state of mind. 

     This development has spurred a flurry of observational studies quantifying instances of probable-flavortown consciousness (PFtC), or at least flavortown-like states (FtLS), in the general population [3,4]. According to the recent computational model by [5], PFtC most likely occurs when all of the following conditions are met:

  1. Mean yum value exceeds the ratio of hedonic tone to gastric intake capacity;
  2. The equilibrium between conventional and funky flavors is shifted towards the left pole (i.e. funky values exceed the deliciousness equilibrium constant [6]);
  3. Glutamate receptors are saturated by circulating MSG;
  4. Bacon amounts are tripled;
  5. The food is Sauced with Authority
  6. Supple Mouth Feels

    Unsurprisingly, the status of the above criteria has provoked controversy within the field, with researchers promulgating a strict definition of PFtC maintaining all conditions are necessary [5], and those who promulgate a less stringent threshold. Most notable among the latter are [7], who describe a general FtLS where only a majority (but not all) of criteria are fulfilled. According to their reasoning, flavortown states exist on a spectrum and need not be legendary bomb-diggity events to be occasioned. They justify this explanation by positing that a capacity for mnemonically representing funky flavors exists within all primates, based on the classic, paradigmatic experiments of Hurpledinger and colleagues [8-11] that demonstrated wacky or outrageous flavor receptivity is hard-wired and subject to Pavlovian control. 

  Accordingly, further work, [12] has suggested that a number of criteria may be too parsimonious. Most notably, the latter believe that FtLS may occur if the taste-targeted individual has an open mind, an appreciation for mouth feels, and is not on a diet. Similarly,  generation of flavortown-related qualia can likely be achieved with non-baconical meats—so long as they are present in Texas-sized proportions, as reported in [13]. The substitution of meats may be feasible due to the poorly understood effects of baconizing radiation [14]. 

   Contrary to early computational models by [5,15-17], FtLS appears to be a common phenomenon experienced by a large proportion of food-seekers in the population at large, especially in locations where the best eateries are inside gas stations [18]. Additionally, the psychometric approach has yielded early success in quantifying the Indeed, [19] developed and validated a psychometric scale based off a community sample of culinary enthusiasts and hapless university students. 

  It has been widely appreciated that the generation of nummy comestibles must obey unique and precise conditions in a law-like fashion for the successful induction of the Flavortown state of consciousness [20]. To further the convergent validity of the construct, we utilized the inventory developed by [20] to develop and then measure the Flavortown Induction Evoked Response Index (FIERI) presented in this paper. 

2. Materials and Methodology

2.1 Participants

Eight individuals (4 women, 3 men, and 1 indeterminate), were selected for participation in the study from an acclaimed sample of professional chefs and food critics based on the passion of their Yelp reviews on locations three dollars in price range. Prior to selection, participants were screened for health and neuropsychiatric conditions. However, it was discovered that none in the sample were actually healthy compared to a community sample. Most participants were found to be hypertensive, (pre)-diabetic, and suffer from hypercholesterolemia. The BMIs of this cohort ranged from 36 to 49, the average being 42. The average number of heart attacks (in the last 10 years) per patient was 1.7. 

Aside from physical illnesses, patients did not have a history of psychiatric, developmental, neurologic disorder or substance abuse/dependence (>6 months) as assessed by the Mini-BARF inventory [21]. After explaining the experimental paradigm to the participants, all participants gave written informed consent as approved by the Cranberry-Lemon Board of Institutional Review. Participants (and their agents) were paid handsomely for their participation in Red Lobster Coupons and free funion’s from the snack bar. 

2.2 Procedure

In an earlier attempt to discover flavortown in [22], another fMRI approach was used in which a base state was compared to the same mind after ingesting demagnetized ramen noodle msg packets. The study turned out to be inconclusive due to the low favorability below the flavortown noise threshold and the lack of mouth feels which many theorize hold one of the keys to entering flavortown [23]. 

To adequately entice the participants with a flavor neutral food item, we had to solve two problems. First We needed something incredibly flavorful and something which is technically food but epitomized the antithesis of flavor. After a road trip across America in which we sampled local bars, dives and diners we tasted each establishment’s most and least flavorful foods. After a survey across the five primary authors and 45 co-authors at each establishment, we ran out of overhead budget just before the fiscal year and established our test foods. For the bland food we chose a bowl of oatmeal without raisins. To avoid any desirable mouth feels we removed the dinosaurs from the oatmeal as well if it was one of the better oatmeal brands and not the one with the quaker guy mascot. For the flavorful food we chose a cheese burger with sharp cheddar, lettuce, caramelized onions, mushrooms, feta cheese, a generous portion of Bacon strips, Bacon Aioli, Bacon concentrate, and a splash of A1 steak sauce. While the foods in between the patty and the bun were hotly contested between the 50 authors of this paper, everyone agreed it should be medium rare.

The second problem we needed to solve was the demagnetization of said food so that it could be consumed mid fMRI. To ensure that the foods would not create any magnetic noise within the fMRI, they were run through a 360 degree AC magnetic field current until all of the oatmeal and burger electronic polarities were successfully randomized. At that moment, the food would be safe for the fMRI and triple wrapped in a space blanket until dinner. There was some concern that the burger with such random polarities may lose some important flavor and drop in meaty-irony umami. This was thankfully disproved by [24] who wanted to trash his weird pretentious foodie friend who owned a gastro-pub that read a little too into 5G conspiracies. 

2.3 Error Sources

Anomalously, and without known empirical precedent, one participant’s hair’s frosted tips produced a sizable and unusual artifact (consult figs. 1-3). Unfortunately, this participant was the only experimental subject who could enter and exit a FtLS consistently and with ease that the entire conclusion of this paper is based on his personal results. As human hair is not known to be ferromagnetic, nor do common hair products contain magnetic metals in sufficient quantities to produce such strong and noisy magnetic responses in MRI. To the extreme frustration of the researchers, no amount of editing or image postprocessing could be done to eliminate this artifact. The participant refused to wash out the highlights of whatever was causing the interference. Subsequently, so much oxidized blood was moving around the presumed flavortown center near the hedonic taste receptors that we were still able to accomplish the localization without any special signal processing or the purchase of a slightly better fMRI machine at three times the cost. Further discussion of this artifact will be reported in a subsequent post publication report we’ll never get around to writing. 

3. Results

    The strongest responses were found in participant B2 who, while his ferromagnetic frosted tips interference previously discussed in section 2.3 caused some issues dialing in the imaging, still produced reliable FtLS readings throughout the experiment. As shown in figure 1, in the control imaging, subject B2 presented normal baseline brain activity found in ordinary humans in a low brain activity state most often found while watching Is it Cake?, or folding laundry. 

Figure 1: Frosted tips man with no food under an fMRI
Figure 1: Frosted tips man with no food (Edited Image Credit DrOONeilCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

In Figure 2, subject 2B is seen ingesting and observing a boring bowl of oatmeal. Despite the incredibly bland flavor of the oatmeal and horrendously disgusting mouth feels felt by 2B, most of the motor control and taste neurons began lighting up in the HurwolButt-Peenshaw region of the brain [25] once thought to be a myth by the Murphy-Scroggler conjecture [15]. Thankfully the results were captured quickly as subject 2B found the oatmeal abhorrent and began begging for raisin toppings. When he began calling out for at least a few dashes of cinnamon on the hellish bowl of Quaker oatmeal in exchange for lewd acts of sexual depravity, the ethical committee pulled the plug on the data point collection calling it cruel and unusual punishment even in the name of science. Regardless of the ethical considerations, enough data was collected to establish a baseline of the brain mappings illuminated with the tasteless food. 

Figure 2: Frosted tips man with Bland Oatmeal (no raisins) under an fMRI
Figure 2: Frosted tips man with Bland Oatmeal (no raisins) (Edited Image Credit DrOONeilCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Finally, subject 2B was measured with the tasty cheeseburger described in section 2.2. As presented in Figure 3, while still activating the regions as the bland oatmeal activated minus the disgust-mengada section [26], a new region was found to be drawing an enormous amount of highly oxygenated blood. It drew so much blood to the region that subject 2B began to lose feeling in all of his extremities, even the naughty one. Unfortunately after the second bite of the burger, he began convulsing with delight so much that he couldn’t keep still which blurred the remaining Flavortown Induction Evoked Response Index (FIERI) captured by the fMRI machine. 

Figure 3: Frosted tips man with flavorful Cheese Burger under an fMRI
Figure 3: Frosted tips man with flavorful Cheese Burger (Edited Image Credit DrOONeilCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

4. Discussion

According to prior research there are several reasons the research team believes what was measured in subject 2B before the violently happy convulsing was the flavortown center of the brain and not just a FtLS. Lining up with other ecstatic brain pattern research, the activated neurons are known to not only be felt by subjects undergoing otherworldly happiness but are also associated with food. According to other fMRI studies, the measured flavortown center of the brain has been previously associated with known wholesome pleasures such as; first kisses on perfect autumn nights [27], being told I love you by a father figure [28], fried chicken, chilled friday night beer, denim pants which fits perfectly, and when the radio volume is turned up [29].

Additionally in the landmark study by a group of Catholic priests [30], a group of celibate monks were subjected to viewing the Stanley Kubrik film Eyes Wide Shut. Each of the monks were then temporarily electrocuted and medically dead for up to a minute and a half before being brought back to life. Their brains were closely monitored under an fMRI machine. Those monks who privately confessed the feelings and temptations felt while watching the party scene in Eyes Wide Shut were found to have brain patterns similar to those of subject 2B while eating a cheeseburger. Those monks who didn’t confess to having lustful thoughts from the film were found to have elevated levels of activity in the areas of the brain associated with breaking bones, barefoot stepping on legos, and chronic relapsing craniorectal inversions [31]. In other words, if heaven is real, it’s a lot like a medium rare cheeseburger. 

5. Conclusion

Without any question, not only is flavor town real and located in the Parietal and Frontal lobe but it maxes out the FIERI metric and is probably what it feels like in heaven. There can be no question. As long as line cooks continue to sauce with authority with justifiable funky flavors, they are bringing a slice of heaven through fantastic food which we now know can transcend humanity to a higher plane of existence.

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Published by B McGraw

B McGraw has lived a long and successful professional life as a software developer and researcher. After completing his BS in spaghetti coding at the department of the dark arts at Cranberry Lemon in 2005 he wasted no time in getting a masters in debugging by print statement in 2008 and obtaining his PhD with research in screwing up repos on Github in 2014. That's when he could finally get paid. In 2018 B McGraw finally made the big step of defaulting on his student loans and began advancing his career by adding his name on other people's research papers after finding one grammatical mistake in the Peer Review process.

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