Press release

The Chef's brain

03/03/2017

The process that makes people faster, more accurately and efficiently is called skill learning. To achieve this, the brain needs to change, establishing new stable connections between neural populations with the resulting increased responsiveness of specific brain areas. Whether “cooking skills” are embodied in a specific neural circuitry has never been investigated. In a study published today in the journal Plos One, a team of researchers from Italy together with the Italian Federation of Chefs, for the first time, unravels neurobiological aspects of the chef’s brain.

Generally, “experts” are people who have had many years of training in a specific domain. The relationship between the morphology and functions of the human brain has attracted the interest of neuroscientists since the popular investigation on the Einstein’s brain. The majority of findings in this field of study have relied on musicians who have served as a model for studying how expertise can shape human brain”, explains Antonio Cerasa from the National Research Council. “However, other career groups such as, mathematicians, taxi-drivers, noses, rock climbers, chess-players and sommeliers, are also characterized by similar neural plasticity changes”.

Eleven Italian head chefs with long-term brigade management expertise and 11 non-experts underwent cognitive and neuroimaging evaluations.

“Neuroimaging analysis revealed that chef's expertise is embodied in the cerebellum” adds Antonio Cerasa. “The cerebellum is one of the principal brain regions involved in motor /cognitive learning. It is well-known that the typical process of acquiring new repertoires of movements and skills to perform them through practice is specifically embodied in this part of brain. The magnitude of the brigade staff as well as the elevated performance in the motor/cognitive planning test positively correlated with the enlargement of the cerebellum: more people to synchronize and faster response in planning plates may induce cerebellar neural plasticity.

“This neuroscientific work testifies the value of the pattern laid down by Auguste Escoffier” – adds Carmelo Fabbricatore, President of the FIC section of Calabria “who, over one century ago, stated that to become chef we never stop learning”.

“However, these data should be handled with care” - concludes Cerasa –“since there is considerable variability among top experts regarding the level of proficiency they achieve and the way in which we can objectively measured it”

 

 

 

Publication: Cerasa A, Sarica A, Martino I, Fabbricatore C, Tomaiuolo F, Rocca F, Caracciolo M, Quattrone A. Increased cerebellar gray matter volume in head Chefs. Plos One 2017; 12(2):e0171457. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171457.

For Further information: Antonio Cerasa, Neuroimaging Unit Ibfm-Cnr, Catanzaro, Italy, antonio.cerasa@cnr.it