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Study: Placebo Effect makes Expensive Wines Taste Better

Posted: Thursday, 17 August 2017 11:05


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Study: Placebo Effect makes Expensive Wines Taste Better

Aug 17: As if one needed a Research Study to tell us that people perceive expensive wines to taste better, we are informed through a small German Study conducted at the University of Bonn that there are higher expectations from more expensive wines and the expectation changed regions in the brain that process the sense of taste, pretty much like with placebo drugs

Although it is presumed that expensive wines are due to various intrinsic factors like better quality of grapes and the winemaking process, part of the superior taste is due to the placebo effect, infers this Study.

15 men and 15 women around the age of 30 were selected for the wine tasting which took place lying down under the MRI scanner, to allow brain activity to be recorded live online while participants were tasting the wines..For each wine, the price was indicated first. Then around one mL of the wine under taste was administrated to the test person through a tube placed in the mouth. The participants rated the flavour of each wine on a nine-point scale using a button.

After tasting, their mouths were then rinsed clean with a neutral liquid and the next identical wine sample was administered to them-the same wine they had already tasted and judged! They were shown a higher price this time before the tasting. This was repeated by administering the same wine sample but indicating a still higher price.

"As expected, the subjects stated that the wine with the higher price tasted better," reported Professor Hilke Plassmann, heading the Study. The scientists explained that this was due to placebo effect.

The researchers concluded that ‘identical wine leads to a better taste experience when expectations are greater due to its price’. But they also believed the placebo effect was limited within a certain range. For example, they believe that they could not pass off a very low-quality wine for wine selling for €100.

The placebo effect was confirmed by measurements of brain activity in the MRI scanner, according to report. The research team discovered that ‘parts of the medial pre-frontal cortex and also the ventral striatum were activated more when prices were higher. The medial pre-frontal cortex appeared to be involved in integrating the price comparison and thus the expectation into the evaluation of the wine. The ventral striatum forms part of the brain's reward and motivation system and apparently increases the taste experience in this way.’

The Research also claims that ‘it was not important whether the participants also had to pay for the wine or whether they were given it for free.’

Several studies have indicated that wine in moderate amounts, can provide significant health benefits including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and increased longevity, regardless of the taste and how it is perceived, claims the Report.

The Research conducted by the University of Bonn with the INSEAD Business School in France was published in the journal Scientific Reports on Tuesday.

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