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J Oral Rehabil. 2010 Aug;37(8):624-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2842.2010.02079.x. Epub 2010 Mar 2.

Occlusion and brain function: mastication as a prevention of cognitive dysfunction.

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1
Department of Physiology and Neuroscience, Kanagawa Dental College, Yokosuka, Japan. yumie@kdcnet.ac.jp

Abstract

Research in animals and humans has shown that mastication maintains cognitive function in the hippocampus, a brain area important for learning and memory. Reduced mastication, an epidemiological risk factor for the development of dementia in humans, attenuates spatial memory and causes hippocampal neurons to deteriorate morphologically and functionally, especially in aged animals. Active mastication rescues the stress-attenuated hippocampal memory process in animals and attenuates the perception of stress in humans by suppressing endocrinological and autonomic stress responses. Active mastication further improves the performance of sustained cognitive tasks by increasing the activation of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, the brain regions that are essential for cognitive processing. Abnormal mastication caused by experimental occlusal disharmony in animals produces chronic stress, which in turn suppresses spatial learning ability. The negative correlation between mastication and corticosteroids has raised the hypothesis that the suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis by masticatory stimulation contributes, in part, to preserving cognitive functions associated with mastication. In the present review, we examine research pertaining to the mastication-induced amelioration of deficits in cognitive function, its possible relationship with the HPA axis, and the neuronal mechanisms that may be involved in this process in the hippocampus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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