That nightly habit of scrolling through viral pastas on TikTok for three hours before bed may be lighting your brain up like a disco ball. A recent study has found a new constellation of image-processing neurons that are exclusively stimulated by pictures of food.

The food-specific neurons live in the visual cortex—the part of the brain that processes information relayed from the eyes—and fire in response to food photos. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they found the tiny nerve cells by accident. They were using functional MRI technology to analyze brain scans taken of eight people as they viewed thousands of different images.

The existence of this food-selective neural population winks at the cultural significance that eating plays in our lives. “[It] may be linked to the fact that food is critically important for survival, or due to the fact that it is a core element of our social interactions,” says Khosla. The findings build on previous research into the visual cortex, which found similar patterns of recognition in response to images of faces, bodies, words, and places.

A slice of hot, cheesy pizza hits the neurons different. Images of cooked and processed meals elicited stronger brain responses than raw fruits and vegetables. And the scientists were able to confirm that edible items specifically aroused brain activity by pitting similarly shaped or colored images against each other—like a banana versus a crescent moon or a chihuahua next to a muffin. That idea came from “a hilarious viral tweet” comparing dogs and foods, says Kholsa, such as curled up shiba inus and bagels.

Do our newly discovered firing neurons mean food images are making us all horny for a snack? Are they fueling our social media addictions? Not necessarily. Mostly “it means our brains know when they are looking at food” without the need for other sensory input like smell or touch, says Nancy Kanwisher, a brain researcher at MIT. More research will be needed, but the findings may also indicate whether a person likes the food they’re seeing, how familiar they are with it, or how nutritious (or not) it is.

Maybe we were born with this shortcut to visually identify crispy french fries, drippy soft serve, and honking burgers as foods. Or maybe our brains have developed in step with #foodie culture. “The fact that the food-specific neural population responded to evolutionarily new categories, like donuts and candy, suggests that there is likely an experience component to it,” says Kholsa. In other words, our brains might have learned over time to recognize what food looks like, even if there were no cheeseburgers at the dawn of civilization.

The researchers are headed back to the lab to find out more. And I’m headed back to TikTok, where my conscious self knows better but my lizard brain only sees fireworks.