Image via Fresno State Olam Sensory Laboratory

published on February 27, 2019 - 12:22 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Researchers and undergraduate students at Fresno State are going beyond simple taste testing to capture live data on how people respond to the aromas of wine.

The testing, which is being done at the Jordan Agricultural Research Center, is studying people’s physiological reactions to the aromas using technology that can record facial movements, sweat on the fingertips, respiration cycles and heart rate. Miguel Pedroza, assistant professor of enology in Fresno State’s Department of Viticulture and Enology and one of the head researchers, said this type of data for wine is unprecedented in scientific literature.

“Wine is a very emotional beverage,” Pedroza said. “Historically, mankind has been attracted very heavily to wine, and we believe that this is due to the aromas which might be a link between the emotions and wine. We want to understand a bit more how our body reacts.”

Pedroza is collaborating with three other professors in the Food Science and Nutrition, Psychology and Computer Science departments. The two-year project is funded through the Agricultural Research Institute from the California State University system.

Testing is conducted in the sensory lab at the Jordan Agricultural Research Center, where participants are hooked up to small electrodes to record body signals and given aromas to smell, such as rose, clove or spices. These electrodes can detect the slightest movements, said Martin Shapiro, professor of psychology, who specialized in decision-making and has a physiology lab that measures responses in the body. He added that heart rate levels and sweat also tell about arousal levels and stress.

“These people are great to work with. They’re a lot of fun and we have these great ideas,” Shapiro said. “I’m learning about wine, they’re learning about physiology and we’re learning ways of measuring it all.”

The project will be conducted in three phases and 30 participants are needed for each one. Those interested in volunteering to participate in this or other sensory projects can do so at the Olam Sensory Laboratory website.

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