Cheese Tasting and Neuroscience?

Me holding a cheese! This visit ties back into neuroscience because the rind of certain cheeses contain the bacterium P. candidum, which research suggests have anti-inflammatory properties in microglial cells, which protect neurons. Time for deliciousness and brain health at the same time!

Hey y’all! My name is Jeffrey Yang and I’m a rising junior studying Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory. I’m currently in Paris for the NBB study abroad program, and today we went cheese tasting! However, this isn’t just for pleasure, believe it or not!

I’ll first start off with the cheese tasting. We visited the Fromagerie, one of the traditional cheese makeries in Paris right in the heart of the old part of town. The shop was very small, very cute, and had a collection of about 150 different cheeses, which is apparently standard in many cheese shops around Paris. As special guests, we were invited to the basement to taste six different cheeses, starting with a very light goat cheese and ending with a very strong blue cheese. All of the cheeses are specialties that were conceived in France and whose origins come from all over France. We learned about how cheese was made, how it was maintained, and even learned the difference between taste and flavor! Each cheese that we tasted was unique and had its own master pairing of juice, but my absolute favorite was the comte, which is right in between a light and strong cheese (so I suppose you could call it moderate!). It was crunchy, extremely flavorful, and had an amazing aroma. I will most definitely be on the lookout for comte in cheese shops all over France now!

The cheeses we tasted!

What’s so crazy about this trip wasn’t even that we had great cheese but also that this trip related back to neuroscience! We are reading and analyzing an article about how dairy fermented with P. candidum (a fungi) have the potential to have an anti-inflammatory effect on microglial cells, which surround and protect our neurons. This article actually states that P. candidum  produces a compound called Dehydroergosterol (DHE) which actually enhances the anti-inflammatory activity of microglial cells, which are the cells that surround our neurons (Ano et al., 2014). In addition, microglial cells have an impact on neuronal activity (Bechade et al., 2013). The Ano article also suggests that because of the anti-inflammatory effects that DHE has on microglial cells, this could possibly reduce dementia. However, the study was done on mice and the DHE was directly applied to the microglial cells so we don’t know yet if DHE can get through our digestive system and cross through the blood-brain barrier. In addition, there have not been any clinical studies on humans yet either. But eating cheese can’t hurt so I say, bon appetit!

Bechade et al., 2013 Figure 1. Microglia are genuine partners of synaptic transmission and play a role in neuronal health.


Ano, Y., Kutsukake, T., Hoshi, A., Yoshida, A., & Nakayama, H. (2015). Identification of a novel dehydroergosterol enhancing microglial anti-inflammatory activity in a dairy product fermented with Penicillium candidum. PloS One, 10(3), e0116598.

Béchade, C., Cantaut-Belarif, Y., & Bessis, A. (2013). Microglial control of neuronal activity. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 7.

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