Chewing Gum and the Brain

Chewing Gum Is Good For Memory, Or So We Thought [Study]

Several studies have made claims that chewing gum aids in boosting mental acuity. Chomping on a stick of gum is supposed to increase alertness by 10 percent because of how it stimulates blood flow and increases insulin levels.

In one study volunteers were grouped in flavorless gum chewers and non-chewers. Brains were then scanned to observe any brain activity alterations. Subjects were instructed to undergo cognitive exams, varying in degrees of complexity, during a 30 minute test. The point of the experiment was the measure reaction times. Results showed non-chewers were milliseconds slower in their responses. The brain scans showed the region’s most active during chewing were those involved with movement and attention.

However, contradictory studies suggest chewing gum has little to no effect on heightening cerebral response, and potentially imposes negative consequence on short-term memory. Experiments executed by the School of Psychology Department at Cardiff University, in the UK, were broken down into a series of tests.

Experiment one showed that chewing gum reduced serial recall. Serial recall is an aspect of memory relating to the accessing of information retained in a serial learning task. In this case subjects were unable to recall listed letters. Chewing impaired identifying match-tasks that require retention and recall of listed items.

Experiment two indicated gum-chewing disrupted vocal-articulatory planning. Articulatory planning is the action of coordinating complex tongue and mouth movements in order to produce sound which is required for order retention.

The third experiment demonstrated repetitive manual tapping produced a similar impairment to that of chewing gum.

A similar study, evaluating the impact of flavorless gum and mint-flavored stripes, showed no context-dependent memory effect was found with either.

These studies indicate the memory benefit, if any, is insufficiently negligible.

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