Mastication (chewing) is important not only for food intake, but also for preserving and promoting the general health. Recent studies have showed that mastication helps to maintain cognitive functions in the hippocampus, a central nervous system region vital for spatial memory and learning. The purpose of this paper is to review the recent progress of the association between mastication and the hippocampus-dependent cognitive function. There are multiple neural circuits connecting the masticatory organs and the hippocampus. Both animal and human studies indicated that cognitive functioning is influenced by mastication. Masticatory dysfunction is associated with the hippocampal morphological impairments and the hippocampus-dependent spatial memory deficits, especially in elderly. Mastication is an effective behavior for maintaining the hippocampus-dependent cognitive performance, which deteriorates with aging. Therefore, chewing may represent a useful approach in preserving and promoting the hippocampus-dependent cognitive function in older people. We also discussed several possible mechanisms involved in the interaction between mastication and the hippocampal neurogenesis and the future directions for this unique fascinating research.
Keywords: Cognition; Hippocampus; Mastication.