Several studies have shown that chewing produces an enhancing effect on memory. Mastication is associated with various brain regions, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, ventral prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex. It may accelerate or recover the process of working memory, encoding new information, delayed recall and the arousal level will also be improved by the chewing motion. Chewing also increased the blood circulation in one of the most important arteries. This artery (middle cerebral artery) is mostly affected in case of a stroke. Heart rate was found to increase in the chewing condition which was similar to other light physical activities.
This is quite essential, specially among the group of elderly who suffer from dementia and cognitive problems such as memory impairment. As there is no cure for dementia, interventions are aimed at improving the clinical consequences. For example, interventions targeting life style factors, such as increasing physical activity, have been found to improve cognitive measures in healthy elderly. Physical activity interventions targeting elderly persons suffering from dementia may improve cognitive function, mood, and Quality of life (QoL) or reduce the risk of cognitive impairments. But demented elderly and in particular, residents of nursing homes have often less or in most cases no physical activity during the day. For this reason it is important to find alternative ways to reduce and delay the process of cognitive decline. One suggestion is simply by mastication. There is additional support for a relationship between mastication and cognition in the elderly population, including those, perhaps even especially those, suffering from dementia. But unfortunately most elderly also suffer from a bad oral health because of inadequate oral health care. A healthy dentition, preferably with nine or more occluding pairs, is needed for good masticatory function in adolescents and adults of all ages. Bad oral health, such as periodontal disease, can lead to tooth loss in the older population causing loss of masticatory function. In most cases even if elderly are able to chew they regularly receive fluid or mashed and pureed meals, because of the fear for chocking. This is very unhelpful because in the first stages of dementia only 30 percent of this group suffer from swallowing and chewing difficulties (dysphagia) and the other 70 percent is often eating fluid and pureed food for no particular reason.
Overall, the above information shows a quite serious condition that needs immediate attention. After reading this you might now want to start looking around to see if you can help people in your community. But what can you do exactly to improve their quality of life? Start by stimulating them to be more active and if they are unable to move, make sure they are chewing regularly and eating properly. Dentist visits at least once in 6 months and regular oral care is essential as well.
And for yourself try a chewing gum while you are learning and memorizing, before and during your exam or during other memory performances. chewing will improve the encoding and recall of the information and help you perform better. I am sure it will at least help you stay more alert whenever you need it.
interesting to read:
Effects of chewing gum on mood, learning, memory and performance of an intelligence test http://www.maneyonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/147683009X423247
Effects of chewing in working memory processing http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304394008003169
Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory http://www.pnas.org/content/108/7/3017.short
Physical activity and enhanced fitness to improve cognitive function in older people without known cognitive impairment http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD005381.pub3/abstract
Increased masticatory activity and quality of life in elderly persons with dementia-a longitudinal matched cluster randomized single-blind multicenter intervention study.