A memory boost hack by Sarina Raman
As students, we try to find every trick in the book to help us get through school, whether it be cramming mnemonic devices or nomming on snacks to give us energy. Sure, there are many foods that can help improve memory, but is chewing gum one of these? Multiple studies have been conducted to observe the effects of chewing gum on memory, specifically visual and auditory memory.
Chewing gum induces a type of arousal called “mastication-induced arousal.” Yep. It doesn’t sound super pretty, but it means exactly what it sounds like. The repetitive motion of chewing gum induces movement, thus increasing your blood pressure (i.e. supplying your brain with more blood) and bathing your cells in oxygen. This, in turn, helps you concentrate and improves your memory.
In addition, the mere smell of gum can jumpstart a memory. Have you ever wondered why a certain food smell quickly reminds you of a specific memory? Contrary to the other sensory pathways, the olfactory one bypasses the thalamus, which is the main hub for processing sensory information. The olfactory signals essentially have a fast pass and directly connect to the hippocampus and amygdala, which are parts of the brain that are linked to emotions and memories.
Another study showed that people who chewed gum during learning and recall were able to retrieve information faster compared to the non-chewers. Thanks to context-dependent effects, the brain links “chewing gum” to “learning,” therefore creating a pattern. Next time, try chewing a piece of gum during lectures and 5-10 minutes prior to an exam—you may just get an extra question right.
It was also shown that chewing gum helps improve your mood and boosts your cortisol levels, which then increases your alertness. With high alertness, you tend to have a better sustained memory.Mint aromas specifically tend to enhance cognition and memory by increasing blood flow, clearing congestion, and lowering stress. So next time you find yourself in the checkout line at a grocery store, go ahead and grab some Wrigley’s Winterfresh. Soon, you’ll be surprising people with your minty breath and sharp memory.