NOV 01, 2017 03:22 PM PDT

Caliente! It's Your Brain that Can't Take the Heat

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
2 2 375

Spicy foods are notorious for leaving an exquisite burning sensation in our mouths. But why do our mouths feel like it's engulfed in flames even if these foods are not physically giving off heat?

The painful burning sensation associated with spicy foods is due to the capsaicin molecules that are most concentrated in the seeds of peppers. We can't actually taste the capsaicin; rather we feel them on our tongues, which are lined with receptors called TRPV1 that activate in the presence of capsaicin.

Once bound to TRPV1 receptors, capsaicin triggers signals in the brain can make it feel as though your mouth is on fire. The same signals can be elicited by these receptors in the presence of physical heat, hence why the resulting sensations from eating hot peppers is often described as a burn. Also, have you ever touched your eyes after cutting a pepper? You feel that same burning sensation because the TRVP1 receptors exist elsewhere on the body, which is why you should always wash your hands after handling hot peppers!
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 10, 2018
Videos
JUL 10, 2018
New Tools in the CRISPR Kit
Some diseases are caused by a single gene mutation. Others are far more complex.
JUL 24, 2018
Videos
JUL 24, 2018
A wave of plastic is washing over the DR
Footage from a video taken by “Parley for the Ocean” on July 14, 2018, shows an actual wave of plastic washing over the shores of Santo Domingo
JUL 30, 2018
Videos
JUL 30, 2018
A Robotic Helping Hand
Ever wish you had a way to get more done? Scientists at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Kyoto Japan might be able to give you a hand&
AUG 01, 2018
Videos
AUG 01, 2018
Seasonal Affective Disorder Can Happen in the Summer
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a temporary mental condition where people feel sad or depressed because of the season and weather. It’s mos
AUG 06, 2018
Videos
AUG 06, 2018
Could You Be a Memory Champion?
Memorization is a useful tool to learn information that is straightforward and objective. School children memorize the multiplication tables, the alphabet,
AUG 18, 2018
Videos
AUG 18, 2018
Zombie Gene Protects Elephants From Cancer
Over an organism’s life, cells keep on dividing and with each division the risk of acquiring a mutation that may lead to cancer increases. Therefore,
Loading Comments...