New Study Suggests Caffeine May Improve Memory
Good news! What wakes you up in the morning might also wake up your neurons. In the past, research has found that caffeine has little to no effect on long-term memory. But in a brand new study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore the memory of 160 people was examined over the course of 24 hours. None of the participants were regular caffeine users. Volunteers took either a 200 milligram caffeine pill or a placebo pill 5 minutes after being asked to remember a series of images. That is the equivalent of about 2 cups of coffee or about 4 cups of tea. The next day participant’s memory was tested. They were shown the series of images again. But this time, some new images were added and some of the old images were subtly altered. Both groups performed equally well at identifying new and old images. However, the group who had taken the caffeine pills showed a significant improvement in their ability to spot the slightly changed images.
This suggests that the caffeine is helping not directly in improving recognition memory. But rather, that the coffee is helping to consolidate the learning. This is similar to the effect that sleep has on memory and is the reason that studying before you sleep is recommended. The researchers say that the effect of caffeine may not be the same on regular coffee drinkers. In the future the team would like to look at what is happening in the hippocampus to better understand what caffeine is doing to memory in the brain.
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