Effect of Gum Chewing Frequency on Oxygenation of the Prefrontal Cortex

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Since increased cerebral oxygenation reflects cerebral activation, this study investigated the effect of mastication frequency on prefrontal cortex oxygenation. Eleven young volunteers (nine women, two men; M age = 20.9 years, SD = 0.9) carried out three trials in which they were asked to chew a tasteless gum for 3 min at varying (rates of mastication frequency: 30, 70, and 110). Breaks of 2 min each were interleaved between trials. The oxygenation of the left prefrontal cortex was monitored by near-infrared spectroscopy. We found a significant increase in cortical oxygenation during gum chewing in all three conditions (p < .05), compared with a resting level; we also found a significant difference between the Fast and Slow chewing conditions, and between the Fast and Normal (70 rpm) conditions, both findings seemingly related to activation of a motor command in frontal brain regions. To our knowledge, this is the first report on the effect of mastication frequency on cerebral oxygenation. Possible implications of this finding are discussed.

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