Senses Molecules

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Disciplinary Sector: 
Organic Chemistry
Second semester
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Learning outcomes of the course unit

The course aims to provide the student with theoretical and applied skills related to the physiological and molecular mechanisms of perception of taste, aroma and color in foods, and the formation of responsible compounds.


Basics of organic chemistry and food chemistry are essential for a correct understanding of the course content.

Course contents summary

Mechanism of perception of taste and its evolutionary basis - Nature of the interactions between taste molecules and receptors - Sweet molecules and structural requirements for the perception of sweetness - Natural and artificial sweeteners - Bitter molecules and structural requirements for the perception of bitter taste - Structure of the molecules responsible for the perception of umami, salty, acid tastes - Non-gustatory perceptions in the oral cavity: astringency, spicy, refreshing - Mechanism of perception of aromas, pheromones - Structural requirements of olfactory active molecules and aroma value - Aromas naturally present in food: primary aromas - Aromas generated by cooking, fermentation and processing: secondary aromas - Molecular basis of color perception - Colored compounds in food - Preservation and formation of color in food in relation to cooking and transformation processes.

Recommended readings

Materials and slides provided by the lecturer.
In order to get more informations on the subjects treated:
- C. Dall'Asta, G. Galaverna. Molecole del Gusto- ovvero la chimica dei sapori, Ed. MUP
- P. Cabras, A. Martelli, Chimica degli Alimenti, Ed. Piccin (PD) -- Belitz, Grosch, Food Chemistry, Ed. Springer-Verlag
- M. Marconi, D. Fajneer, G. Benevelli, G. Nicoli, Dentro al gusto, Ed. Edagricole

Teaching methods

The course takes place during 21 hours of frontal lectures. During these hours, the students are guided to the understanding of the basic and application concepts related to molecules impacting sensory properties, through the projection of slides accompanied by explanations, in order to develop a solid theoretical knowledge that can serve as a basis for a practical approach to the subjects of taste, aroma and color in food.
Lectures will be organized in presence, with the possibility to attend them also from distance both in synchronous way (through Microsoft Teams) and asynchronous way (saved on the Elly website of the course)

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam is based on a written test containing open questions, also with applicative aspects, for the students to be answered.
Participation in the test is possible ONLY after registration through the ESSE3 system. Students not officially registered will not be admitted to take the test. There will be 7 different sessions of test per year.
The time for the test is 2 hours.
During the test the student can withdraw, and in this case the test is not corrected and the result will be recorded in the ESSE3 system as WITHDRAWAL.
The results of the written test will be published on ESSE3 and each student will receive an email with the result.
The test is considered passed and the grade can be officially recorded if the grade of the test is equal to or higher than 18. In case of a grade lower than 18, the test will have to be repeated.
In the event of a grade equal to or greater than 18, the student has two options:
- Accept the vote received, which will then be officially recorded
- Reject the vote using the specific option in ESSE3, and repeat the exam. Attention: the refusal must be explicit, the silence-assent rule applies.
In case of impossibillity to do the written exam for causes of force majeur imposed by external events, the exam will be done at distance through an oral test made through Teams.

Other informations

In case of public health emergency the modalities for lecturing and exams might be modified. All changes will be timely communicated on Elly website and/or on the site of the course.