The study explores how emotions generated by chewing gum influence cortical activity

The study explores how emotions generated by chewing gum influence cortical activity

Credit: Katie Rainbow, Unsplash.

Some neuroscience studies suggest that distinct human emotional states are associated with greater activity in different regions of the brain. For example, while some parts of the brain were associated with all emotional responses, the hypothalamus was often linked with sexual responses and feelings of intimacy, the hippocampus with recalling memories that trigger emotions, and the amygdala with fear and anger.

Humans can experience emotional responses to an extremely wide range of sensory and environmental stimuli, including the food they consume. However, relatively few studies to date have explored the link between the emotional states elicited by different food flavors and activity in different parts of the cortex (i.e., the part of the brain responsible for higher cognitive processes).

Researchers at Niigata University, Hyogo College of Medicine, Meiji University, Sakagami Dental Clinic, and Otima Junior College recently conducted a study looking at the emotional responses elicited by chewing gum of different flavors and the cortical activity associated with these responses. Their findings, published in Frontiers in neurosciencehighlighted the possible role of the left prefrontal cortex in eliciting emotional states during the consumption of savory (i.e., bland tasting) or less flavorful foods.

“Cortical activity may be modulated by the emotional states elicited by flavors during food intake,” Yoko Hasegawa and colleagues wrote in their paper. “We examined cortical activity during chewing with different tastes/odors using multichannel near-infrared spectroscopy.”

Hasegawa and colleagues conducted their experiments on 36 volunteers. These volunteers were asked to chew different types of gum, some more flavorful and others less flavorful, for 5 minutes each, and then rate these gums in terms of taste, smell and aftertaste.

While the participants were chewing these different types of gum, the activity in their cortical region was recorded using multichannel infrared spectroscopy. This is a well-established neuroimaging technique that can be used for non-invasive, real-time monitoring of brain oxygenation.

“Participants rated the taste, aroma and pleasantness of each gum using a visual analog scale,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “Bilateral hemodynamic responses in the frontal and parietal lobes, bilateral brachial muscle activation, and heart rate were measured during gum chewing. Changes in all data measured during gum chewing were also evaluated.”

Not surprisingly, Hasegawa and her colleagues found that participants rated each type of gum differently, based on their individual preferences. However, they noticed that a specific area of ​​the prefrontal cortex, namely the left one, was activated differently while chewing more and more gums.

“Hemodynamic responses were significantly elevated in the bilateral primary sensorimotor cortex during chewing compared to resting,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “Although hemodynamic responses to large brain regions showed little difference between the resting and gum-chewing states, a difference was detected in the contralateral left dorsolateral/dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Muscle activation and heart rate were not significantly different between the different types of gummies. Differential processing in the left prefrontal cortex may be responsible for emotional states triggered by appetizing and unpalatable foods.”

The findings of this recent study could contribute to the current understanding of the emotional states triggered by eating tastier or less flavorful foods, as well as the cortical regions associated with these states. In the future, they could inspire other teams to conduct similar investigations, which could lead to new discoveries about how the brain processes and creates different eating experiences.

more information:
Yuko Hasegawa et al., Affective modulation of cortical activity during gum chewing: a functional near-infrared spectroscopy study, Frontiers in neuroscience (2022). DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2022.964351. www.frontiersin.org/articles/1…2022.964351 / Abstract

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