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You Want Somm Brains

By Karen MacNeil
September 26, 2016

A fascinating new study has just been released from the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

The research suggests that continual sensory training and practice (like the kind that somms get in the course of their work) may positively impact the physical structure of the brain.

The study, Structural and Functional MRI Differences in Master Sommeliers: A Pilot Study on Expertise in the Brain, was conducted by Dr. Sarah J. Banks and researchers, including Master Sommelier Jay James.

In it, both somms and non-wine trained people smelled and tasted compounds while their brains were monitored by MRI.

The study found that during tasting/smelling, sommeliers show far greater brain activity than do non-sommeliers.

Additionally, the entorhinal cortex of sommeliers was thicker and more developed than the same cortex in non-sommeliers. The entorhinal cortex is one of the first brain areas to show changes from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Said James, “Being a part of this study was a great honor. The sommeliers involved were aware that we were using our expertise in beverages and blind tasting for a more noble purpose—namely, looking at how to keep the brain healthy and possibly prevent devastating brain disease.”