Asked by: Simon Vincent, King’s Lynn
Yes, American soldiers have been routinely issued with gum to improve concentration and relieve stress since the First World War and several studies have since demonstrated that it improves performance in both visual and audio memory tasks. Exactly how it helps still isn’t clear though.
One possibility is that the physical chewing action helps to stimulate the blood flow to the brain, but tests where volunteers chew with an empty mouth don’t show the same benefit. It may be that the tongue and jaw manipulation involved in moving gum around your mouth occupies parts of the brain that might otherwise get distracted.