Study: Caffeine stirs memory

2014-01-13 05:30

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - A jolt of caffeine can boost memory, according to a study published on Sunday that provides a scientific motive for students slurping coffee, tea or energy drinks when cramming for exams.

A team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, found that caffeine enhances certain memories for at least a day after they were formed.

Evidence for caffeine as a memory booster has been anecdotal until now.

This is because the process of registering memories - say, reading a book ahead of an exam - may happen in conditions where the person is eager to absorb and retain information.

This makes it hard to distinguish between someone's natural alertness and that derived from caffeine.

To strip out this confounding factor, a team led by Michael Yassa, an assistant professor of psychological and brain science, tried a different tack.

They asked 73 volunteers to look at images of a number of objects - for instance, a plant, a basket, a saxophone, or a seahorse.

Afterwards, half of the group were given a 200mg dose of caffeine - roughly equivalent to two cups of strong espresso - and the others a dummy pill known as a placebo.

Saliva samples were taken one, three and 24 hours later to measure caffeine levels.

The following day, both groups were asked to look at another set of pictures.

Some of the images were the same, others were new, and a few were similar - for instance, a basket as before, but this time with one handle instead of two.

Both groups did well at distinguishing between old and new pictures, the researchers said.

But those on caffeine were much sharper at identifying the "similar" items in the line-up.

The test sought to discern the effect of caffeine on the hippocampus, a part of the brain that distinguishes between patterns - requiring both short- and long-term memory.

"If we used a standard recognition memory task without these tricky similar items, we would have found no effect of caffeine," Yassa said.

"However, using these items requires the brain to make a more difficult discrimination - what we call pattern separation, which seems to be the process that is enhanced by caffeine in our case."

The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, could be valuable in the study of brain cell health.

"Caffeine is associated with healthy longevity and may have some protective effects from cognitive decline like Alzheimer's disease," said Yassa.

"These are certainly important questions for the future."

Read more on:    research

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.