Chomp, Chomp, Chomp

chompEveryday students get in trouble or warned for chewing gum in class.  However, research done by three undergraduates at St. Lawrence University has showed that when students chew gum it improves their memory.  These results were tested on volunteers who chewed gum for 5 minutes before completing a battery of cognitive tests as compared to participants who did not chew gum.

Tests showed improvement on three different kinds of memory: working memory, episodic memory, and perceptual speed of processing.  Working memory is the ability to hold onto and manipulate information for brief periods of time.  For example, memory is held in the brain, but can be easily forgotten if distracted, like if you walk in to a room and forget why you entered.  Episodic memory is the ability to retain information long-term.  When students say they don’t like something because of one bad incident.  Episodic memory is what helps you remember how you felt at a certain time and place doing whatever.  Perceptual speed of processing, is a general index of cognitive functioning, for example, when absorbing information in class.

So for all you teachers reading this, if the chomping isn’t bothering anyone, and students are focused and working, maybe let the gum be chewed?

A second experiment of volunteers chewed gum during a 30 min test.  Participants pressed a button with their right or left thumb in response to the direction of an arrow on a screen.  People not chewing took 545 milliseconds to respond, while people chewing only took 493 milliseconds to respond.

“Our results suggest that chewing induced an increase in the arousal level and alertness in addition to an effect on motor control and as a consequence, these effects could lead to improvements in cognitive performance,”  said the researchers from the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan and other centers.

Chewing gum is a habit that divides opinion, but maybe you have a change in opinion.  Gum chewing can be beneficial.


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