If you’re a fan of spicy food, it may interest you to know just how your brain actually reacts to the consumption of things like fresh peppers and your favorite chili seasoning. Meanwhile, if you feel like you just can’t tolerate spicy food, you may have explained this preference by exclaiming that eating hot peppers makes you feel like your mouth is on fire.
As it turns out, your assessment is not far from the truth!
This TED-Ed talk from Rose Eveleth explains what happens to both body and brain in the moments after you consume a spicy meal or snack. You’ll learn how special polymodal nociceptors on your tongue trigger a basic “fight or flight” response when exposed to spice, as your brain processes signals that suggest your mouth is burning.
As a bonus, Eveleth reveals the key differences between a few major types of spicy foods (e.g. peppers vs. wasabi), exploring the range of compounds that trigger different responses in the mouth and sinuses.
Finally, if you’re wondering whether you might be able to build up your tolerance to spice so that you can enjoy some of the foods your peers have been
raving about for years, this video will help you understand just how you might be able to do this. Do you really start to experience less pain in response to spice, or do you simply become more capable of dealing with the discomfort? Watch and find out!