The appreciation of wine by sommeliers: A functional magnetic resonance study of sensory integration

Alessandro Castriota-Scanderbeg, Gisela E. Hagberg, Antonio Cerasa, Giorgia Committeri, Gaspare Galati, Fabiana Patria, Sabrina Pitzalis, Carlo Caltagirone, Richard Frackowiak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We set out to investigate how the expertise of a sommelier is embodied in neural circuitry by comparing brain activity elicited by wine tasting with that found in naïve drinkers of wine. We used fMRI to study 7 sommeliers and 7 age- and sex-matched control subjects to test the hypothesis that any difference in brain activity would reflect a learned ability to integrate information from gustatory and olfactory senses with past experience. A group analysis showed activation of a cerebral network involving the left insula and adjoining orbito-frontal cortex in sommeliers. Both these areas have been implicated in gustatory/olfactory integration in primates. In addition, activation was found bilaterally in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is implicated in high-level cognitive processes such as working memory and selection of behavioral strategies. Naïve individuals activated the primary gustatory cortex and brain areas, including the amygdala, implicated in emotional processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-578
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2005


  • fMRI
  • Gustatory system
  • Insular cortex
  • Sensory integration
  • Wine tasting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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