The Impact of Chewing on Neuromotor Function in Children


The Impact of Chewing on Neuromotor Function in Children


College of Health Sciences


Ph.D. Kinesiology & Rehabilitation

Publication Date



Reaction time is a common measure used to assess the speed of cognitive processing in individuals of all ages. Typically the latency for simple reaction time changes with age with children exhibiting slower simple reaction times compared to adults. Chewing gum is a common behavior which many people perform on a daily basis. Evidence suggests that this activity has benefits on attention and memory in children and adults. However, any definitive benefits of chewing for reaction time remain unclear. The current study was designed to examine the effect of chewing at different speeds on simple reaction time in a cohort of typically developing children (n=16, aged 10-17 years). Individuals completed a simple reaction time task under the following conditions: 1) no chewing (control), 2) slow chewing (1 Hz), 3) fast chewing (2.2 Hz), and 4) preferred chewing. A repeated measures, mixed generalized linear model was used to assess differences in reaction time across the four conditions. Results revealed that all chewing conditions led to a significant increase in reaction time values compared to the no-chew (control) condition. Conversely, the reaction time values during the slow and fast chewing conditions were slower than the preferred chewing condition. While these results indicate that chewing gum can have a negative effect on reaction times, systematically instructing children to increase or decrease their chewing rate from their preferred frequency amplified this interference. One possibility is that chewing requires more attention which may result in decreased cognitive resources allocated for the reaction time task. Completing a concurrent oral motor task during a simple reaction time degrades performance.


The Impact of Chewing on Neuromotor Function in Children