Christopher Herot's Weblog: Why Expensive Wine Tastes Better:
"Economists Hilke Plassmann, Baba Shiv, Antonio Rangel, and psychologist John O'Doherty have come up with one explanation for why that bottle of Opus One tastes better than the usual Mondavi Cabernet: knowing the wine is expensive increases the activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) and the rostral anterior cortex (rACC), the areas of the brain that experience pleasure. In a recently published paper, Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness, they describe an experiment in which they put 11 Caltech graduate students in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine and gave them five samples of Cabernet Sauvignon to taste. They were told that the purpose of the study was to measure the effects of degustation time on perceived flavors. Unknown to the students, there were really only three wines, with two of them being offered twice at different prices ($5 became $45 and $10 became $90). Not only did the subjects report that the more 'expensive' wine tasted better, but their MOFC and rACC showed increased blood oxygen levels when presented with those wines. Interestingly, the portions of the brain associated with taste were not affected, suggesting that the mOFC integrates the 'bottom up' sensory components with the 'top down' expectations, a mechanism similar to the well-known placebo effect."Ha ha. Mmm... wine.