The study examines how emotion induced by chewing gum affects cortical activity

The study examines how emotion induced by chewing gum affects cortical activity

Credit: Katie Rainbow, Unsplash.

Some neuroscientific studies suggest that different human emotional states are associated with greater activity in different areas of the brain. For example, while some parts of the brain were associated with all emotional responses, the hypothalamus was often associated with sexual responses and feelings of intimacy, the hippocampus with the retrieval of emotion-evoking memories, 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, so far, relatively few studies have investigated the link between emotional states induced 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 from Niigata University, Hyogo College of Medicine, Meiji University, Sakagami Dental Clinic, and Otemae Junior College recently conducted a study examining the emotional responses induced by chewing gum with different flavors and the cortical activity associated with those responses. Their findings, published in Frontiers in Neurosciencehighlight the potential role of the left prefrontal cortex in inducing emotional states during the consumption of palatable (ie, pleasant tasting) or less aromatic foods.

“Cortical activity can be modulated by emotional states that are triggered by cravings during food intake,” Yoko Hasegawa and her colleagues wrote in their paper. “We investigated cortical activity during chewing with different tastes/odors using multi-channel near-infrared spectroscopy.”

Hasegawa and her colleagues conducted their experiments on 36 volunteers. These volunteers were asked to chew different types of gum, some more palatable and some less aromatic, for 5 minutes each, and then rate the gums for taste, smell, and deliciousness.

As the participants chewed these different types of gum, activity in their cortical region was recorded using multi-channel near-infrared spectroscopy. It is a well-established neuroimaging technique that can be used to monitor cerebral oxygenation non-invasively and in real time.

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

Unsurprisingly, Hasegawa and her colleagues found that participants rated each type of gum differently based on their individual preferences. However, they observed that a specific region of the prefrontal cortex, specifically the left part, was differentially activated when chewing more and less palatable gums.

“Hemodynamic responses were significantly increased in the bilateral primary sensorimotor cortex during chewing compared to rest,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “Although the hemodynamic responses of broad brain regions showed little difference between the resting state and the gum chewing condition, a difference was found in the corresponding left frontopolar/dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Muscle activation and heart rate did not differ significantly between the different types of gum. Differential processing in the left prefrontal cortex may be responsible for the emotional states produced by palatable and unpalatable foods.”

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

More information:
Yoko Hasegawa et al, Emotional modulation of cortical activity during gum chewing: A functional near-infrared spectroscopy study, Frontiers in Neuroscience (2022). DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2022.964351. … 2022.964351/abstract

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Citation: Study explores how emotions elicited by gum affect cortical activity (2022, November 24) Retrieved November 25, 2022 from

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