Scientists from Nigata University, Hyogo College of Medicine, Meiji University, the Sakagami Dental Clinic and Otemae Junior College, have established a link between the chewing of flavoured gums and emotional states in humans.
To arrive at their findings, the experts conducted a study to examine the brain’s activity linked to emotional reactions induced by various flavoured chewing gums.
The investigation, which was conducted by Yoko Hasegawa and her colleagues, was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience. It shows that the left prefrontal cortex may have a role in evoking emotional reactions when palatable that is, pleasant-tasting or bland foods are consumed.
“Cortical activity may be modulated by emotional states that are triggered by flavours during food intake,” they wrote in their paper. “We examined cortical activity during chewing with different tastes/odours using multichannel near-infrared spectroscopy”.
The emotional reactions to palatable and unpleasant foods may be caused by different processing in the left prefrontal cortex, they averred.
There were 36 people who voluntarily participated in the experiments done by Hasegawa and her colleagues. These volunteers were instructed to chew various gum flavours for five minutes each before rating each gum’s flavour, odour and delectability.
Multichannel near-infrared spectroscopy was used to monitor brain activity as the individuals ate these various kinds of gum. It is possible to track brain oxygenation non-invasively and in real-time using this well-established neuroimaging approach.
The researchers then discovered that the participants rated each variety of gum differently, depending on their personal preferences. However, they found that chewing more and less appetizing gums caused a varied activation of a certain region of the prefrontal cortex, specifically the left section.
When compared to resting, hemodynamic responses during chewing were considerably higher in the bilateral primary sensorimotor cortex. However, a difference was found in the corresponding left frontopolar/dorsolateral prefrontal cortex between the resting and gum-chewing phases, despite the hemodynamic responses of several brain regions showing little difference.
There were no appreciable differences in heart rate or muscle activity across the various varieties of gum.
The results of this recent study could contribute to the current understanding of the emotional states induced by eating tastier or less flavourful foods, as well as cortical regions linked to these states.