Brain Boosters; Can Chewing Gum Really Improve Your Memory? SALLY JANES Discovers the Secrets of How You Can Get Smarter - in Just One Hour

The Mirror (London, England), June 13, 2002 | Go to article overview

Brain Boosters; Can Chewing Gum Really Improve Your Memory? SALLY JANES Discovers the Secrets of How You Can Get Smarter - in Just One Hour


Byline: SALLY JANES

Everyone's had one of those days when you just can't think straight. You forget to do simple tasks and you can't concentrate at work.

Your brain feels foggy and you'd do anything to have a magic pill that would sharpen everything up.

Well, with the help of top memory scientists, we've devised a plan to boost the brain in just a matter of hours. By taking a few simple steps to boost glucose and oxygen to the brain, you'll notice the difference almost instantly.

And just to prove that it does work, I tested each of the brain boosters. Every morning for a week, I either ate fish, drank Lucozade, chewed gum or did something else that has been shown to increase brain power.

Then I took a series of computerised memory tests devised by the Cognitive Drug Research Centre at Reading, Berkshire.

I had to memorise word groups, press buttons when certain words appeared on the screen to test my reaction time, follow a dart with a joy stick to test my brain speed, and memorise groups of pictures to test my working memory.

I took one memory test before doing each of the brain-boosting techniques. Then, to see how effective it was, I took another test an hour, then four hours later.

The scientists calculated how much my scores increased after the brain boosting techniques.

I didn't think one hour would be nearly enough, but Professor Keith Wesnes from the centre assured me it was fine.

"There's no reason why these should take a long time to start working," he said. "You don't have to wait months, you can see the benefits often within the hour. Research shows the brain responds fast."

If you're feeling a bit sluggish and slow it may be because you need to increase the blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which is what most of our brain boosters do.

Prof Wesnes adds: "The brain desperately needs all the nutrients in the blood and oxygen to function properly.

"But training the mind also helps. Memory is like everything else, the more you work at it the better it is."

When the results came back a week later, I was stunned to see that my brain really had improved.

My attention span and memory had both increased, and my brain speed had doubled. So if you're feeling fuzzy headed or you're in the middle of exams and need a bit of extra brain power, sharpen your mind with these brain boosters.

CHEWING GUM

Alertness and memory Brain-boosting score 47%

Chewing raises the heart rate, which increases oxygen to the brain. Chewing also tricks the body into thinking that it is eating, so insulin is released and this is thought to increase the uptake of blood sugar by the brain.

This surge of oxygen and sugar is a quick-fix boost and works only while you are chewing. Scientists believe the increase of oxygen to the brain boosts our mental alertness. It improves our 'episodic memory', which means we are more able to retain and recall information. It also improves the working memory - which we use if we need to keep temporary information, like a phone number.

"Working memory helps you do tasks," says Prof Wesnes

"It's the part of the memory you use when you walk into a room and think, 'what did I come in here for?'"

A recent study by neuroscientists at the University of Northumbria found that volunteers' ability to remember a list of words was improved by over 35 per cent if they chewed gum. Prof Wesnes, who co-lead the research, believes it is one of the most surprising studies into problem solving and cognitive function as it shows just how quickly and how much of a difference one simple action can have on our brain.

Sally's test results: After chewing for one hour my brain had improved by 47 per cent. I felt jittery after 10 minutes of chewing, but also felt sharp. The benefits are short lived and you'll need to chew at the time you need to boost your brain's performance. …

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