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Chewing gum makes students smarter
by Yuki Ohashi, Associate Science & Environment editor

Researchers from University of Northumbria have recently found an interesting fact: chewing gum can greatly improve human cognitive behavior, thinking, and memory, according to an ABC News article by Jeremy Laurence.

In the study, scientists looked at the link between the repetitive chewing motion and the memory. Their study indicated that people who chew gum have better memory than people who didn’t.

Click on image for larger view

The experiment involved 75 people, split into three groups of real chewers, non-chewers, and “sham” chewers. Prior to undergoing the 25-minute computerized test, two chewing groups spent three minutes working their real or imaginary gum around their mouth.

The participants were then tested for their short-term memory, such as recalling words and pictures, and working memory, such as the ability to retain a person’s telephone number.

“We found a very clear pattern of improved memory when gum was chewed,” said Dr. Andrew Scholey, a psychologist who carried out the study. People who chewed gum scored 40 percent more in memory tests than those who didn’t.

During the tests to recall 15 words, the gum-chewers remembered two or three more words than non-chewers. At the same time, the heart rate of the real chewers, after the tests, was three beats per minute faster than the non-chewers, and 1.5 beats per minute faster than the sham chewers. The sham group also performed better than non-chewers.

However, scientists also found chewing had no effect on long-term memory.

Scientists did not determine why chewing affects memory function. However, they now are working on two major theories. The first is that the mild increase in heart rate may improve the delivery of oxygen and glucose to the brain, enough to improve cognitive function. The second is that chewing triggers the production of insulin, which is very important for learning and memory. According to Scholey, by chewing, the body can release insulin, which is probably a conditioned response that occurs in anticipation of a meal. “It is known that there is insulin in areas of the brain which are important for learning and memory,” he said.

Although, the findings are still preliminary, individuals should take advantage of these findings and start chewing gum. In fact, chewing gum is an inexpensive means of boosting one’s cognitive ability. And teachers may wish to consider telling students to stop chewing gum in class, especially during quizzes.




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