Chew on this

Edible candy models could become the new way we learn

A tastier and more accessible way to digest information.

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US National Archives

When you think of school, memories of reading textbooks and watching educational videos might come to mind. But what if instead of seeing, you could taste the lesson instead?

Bryan F. Shaw

That’s what one group of students did for a study published in Science Advances. Researchers made 3D printed, candy-sized models of proteins, and asked some of the students to identify them with their mouths.

The researchers made two models of protein: one of edible gelatin — the stuff used to make gummy bears — and the other of inedible surgical resin.

Bryan F. Shaw

S4C via Giphy

The researchers blindfolded 281 college students, gave them the models, and asked them to identify what the models were supposed to be. Some used their mouths to try and figure it out, while others used their hands.

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The students who used their mouths were better at figuring out which protein was which than those who used their hands.

Giphy

The skin on our tongues is extremely sensitive. Not to mention we have taste buds to help us out on there, too.

Bryan F. Shaw

What is more surprising is that the students were almost equally as good at identifying proteins with their mouths as they were by sight — the way many visually-unimpaired people learn to tell what an object is.

“Eyesight seems to be no better than hand or mouth at identifying esoteric shapes.”

— Baumer et. al, study authors

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Miike Snow

The results hint that using edible models made for the mouth could open doors to new, more inclsuive educational tools.

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Tools that use taste and touch above sight may be especially helpful for people with visual impairments.

Oral learning devices like these remain relatively unexplored. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself digesting information via candy in the future.

Read more stories about science here.