My guest this episode is Dr. Charles Zuker, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry, Molecular Biophysics and Neuroscience at Columbia University and an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Dr. Zuker is the world’s leading expert in the biology of taste, thirst and craving. His laboratory explores the mechanisms of taste perception, focusing on how our conscious and unconscious processing of specific foods and nutrients guide our actions and behaviors. We discuss the neural circuits of taste, the “gut-brain axis,” the basis of food cravings and the key difference between wanting (craving) and liking (perceiving) sugar. We also explore how taste perception relates to specific food satiety, thirst, to our emotions, and expectation. We also consider how sugar containing and highly-processed foods can hijack the natural balance of the taste and digestive systems. Dr. Zuker provides a true masterclass in the biology of taste and perception that ought to be of interest to anyone curious about how the brain works, our motivated behaviors and the neural, chemical perceptual aspects of the mind.
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