Digusting Things are Just as Gross Whether They're Real or Imagined

DiscoblogBy Andrew MosemanAug 14, 2008 12:56 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

No matter how hard you try, it's often difficult to cheer yourself up from a funk just by thinking happy thoughts. But making yourself disgusted—that's easy. Researchers had already identified the part of the brain that activates when we feel grossed out—the anterior insula and adjacent frontal operculum, or IFO. But a Dutch study has found that even reading or thinking about something disgusting can cause the same region of the brain to light up. The scientists put their 12 subjects through several unpleasant experiences and watched their brains on fMRI images. The subjects had to endure foul-tasting quinine on their tongues, watch movies of other disgusted people, or read a section from a story full of rather rank and vivid imagery. We won't print the bit of vile text that the test subjects had to read, but check it out here if you have a strong stomach. All three activities activated the IFO, showing that our imaginations might be able to drum up as much disgust as something we see with our eyes. So if reading horror novels makes you a little sick to your stomach, now you know why—though be glad you won't die of shock. Image: iStockphoto

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2023 Kalmbach Media Co.