"Why are a red apple and pasta with tomato sauce more appealing than a green apple and 'pasta al pesto'?": this is the kind of question neuroscientists ask themselves when exploring the way our brain processes the visual information related to food. It is fundamental to have the appropriate images in this kind of research, and for this reason FRIDa, the image database created by the FoodCAST project, was conceived.
In public research databases of this kind, featuring experimental stimuli, are limited, outdated, incomplete and little flexible (while many of them are produced by food companies but are not freely accessible). In consideration of the growing importance of the research revolving around food, and more specifically around the cognitive processes our food-related choices and behaviors are based upon, archives such as FRIDa are a key instrument.
The archive has been fine-tuned to meet the requirements of the international scientific community by Raffaella Rumiati of the Sissa of Trieste, and by her team, namely Francesco Foroni, Giulio Pergola and Georgette Argiris who have run a series of tests on 76 young and healthy individuals.
The database includes images from different categories: natural food (like, for instance, a strawberry), transformed food (like french fries), rotten food (like a moldy banana), and so on. Such images will be used for research carried out within the FoodCAST itself but may be employed by anyone who may need them, like neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists, and are freely available on the FoodCAST website.
More in detail...
FoodCAST is a research project financed by Regione Lombardia, MIPAF and ISMEA and headed by the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste (SISSA) which also involves other Italian Universities: Università degli Studi di Milano, Università di Bologna Alma Mater and Università degli Studi di Perugia.
FoodCAST combines and compares numerous competences and skills, some of them so far unrelated to the agri-food sector. A heterogeneous team, composed of dozens of researchers, is at work applying competences and instruments of econophysics, of statistical analysis of complex systems, of neuroscience, of agrarian economy, of zootechnics, of political economy, to the field of commodities.
The main goals are four: define the network of active and passive subjects interconnected with the production and transformation of a commodity; realize quantitative models of prediction and risk analysis in food markets; create a cognitive scale of food value and verify its evolution in case of sanitary and financial crisis ; build a quality analysis methodology that goes past the short and medium term and that, by identifying the possible technological and structural innovations capable of further altering the markets, may allow to predict possible distant future scenarios.