Monday, 18 June 2012
Having memory problems? Spit out that gum
Chewing flavourless gum could hamper your memory, a new British study has revealed.
According to researchers from Cardiff University in the UK, people who chewed gum had a harder time recalling lists of letters and numbers than those who avoided the habit.
Researchers believe that the motion involved in chewing deter the brain’s ability to memorize serial lists.
Just like tapping your finger or foot may distract you from accomplishing the same task, continual movements like chewing on a piece of gum can also interfere with your short-term memory.
The study challenges the prevailing notion that chewing gum, at least when it is flavoured, is a performance enhancer that can boost brainpower.
According to Chicago Tribune, the study provides further proof that human beings are bad at multitasking.
Some previous studies have argued that gum improves concentration by triggering an increase in blood flow through the brain, said lead author Michail Kozlov, of Cardiff University.
But his team found that an oral activity such as gum chewing could interfere with the process that is normally used to remember verbal content, the Daily Mail reported.
As part of the study, the researches gave subjects tasks to perform while chewing gum and without gum.
In one test, the volunteers were told to chomp vigorously and asked to remember a sequence of randomly ordered letters, such as P, V, B, C, D, G, T.
Another group repeated the experiment, but while chewing at a natural pace.
In the second test, students chewed the flavourless gum and tried to pick up the missing item in the sequence.
The study found that it made no difference whether the participants chewed vigorously or naturally. In both cases, “chewing has an overall adverse affect on serial recall,” researchers wrote.
The jury is still out, however, on the role of flavour. In a 2002 study, the volunteers chewed mint-flavoured gum and performed better on short-term word and memory tasks than those who did not chew gum.
But because chewing gum loses its flavour in several minutes, “it seems advisable that chewing gum is only considered a performance enhancer as long as its flavour lasts,” the researchers noted.
The study was recently published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.