Does this make sense? (Week 4)

The topics this week were chemical and visual senses. Two out of three of us were physically present at the lecture but only one of us was able to concentrate properly. Shame, because now I’m the only one who wasn’t inspired this week:( What I remember, first we learned how chemical senses, taste and smell work. Those were covered in detail but I think the third sense, sight, was a bit rushed through. Anyway, the other two girls picked something very interesting from taste and sight and wrote you about their findings!

– S


Follow your nose and see where it goes. Our ability to taste and smell the good and bad stuff around us. As a foodie, I think about taste a lot, and thus would like to spend this moment to reconsider taste in the light of the new information I’ve learned on this course!

The question of “why do I hate stuff everyone else likes” is always relevant when you try to make tacos or thai food with your friends, and someone is like “NO CORIANDER EW”.

Why do (some) people hate coriander? What has it ever done to them? The answer is in the genetics my friend.

3-21% of the population (some areas or ethnicities are more prominent on the coriander hate statistic) consider coriander to taste “soapy”. As we learned, different tastes are processed and received differently in the mouth, sweet uses a different transduction mechanism than salty or umami and so on. Smell is also a big part of how something tastes, and as an herb, the smell of coriander is very distinctive.

If the herb transducts as soap, they must have a chemical component that is similar enough to (“faultily”) trigger the same receptor. Research suggests that a point mutation found in the olfactory-receptor genes of coriander haters, OR6A2, would be the cause for the soapy taste of the herb. The chemical makeup of coriander’s smell (and thus, taste) is composed of many unsaturated aldehydes, and the people affected by the mutation are more sensitive to these types of organic compounds. Thus, the beautiful floral flavors of coriander are overpowered.

A shame really, that tasting a thing too much can cause you to hate so much. Time for V to take us on a wacky trip that will make our eyes trip! (Hehe)

(More interesting reading on the subject:

“Soapy taste of coriander linked to genetic variants”

Are there some vegetables you can’t stand? It may be genetic.)


I have always been fascinated by optical illusions and this week has been great in learning more about the processes behind these illusions. I was quite surprised to learn that some of the illusions are not due to our brains and the visual pathway, but some also occur because of the very structure of our eyes. I shall leave you with some classic optical illusions: Light and shadowsGradient and Profiles or a vase?. Also have you heard about The Dress? It is a very good example of how the perception of colors differs whether you think an object is in the light of shadow.

– V

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