The widely celebrated tradition of drinking a cup of hot coffee in the morning turns out to be far more beneficial than we can imagine. Besides the potential to wake you up, caffeine, say scientists, may boost your long-term memory. The timing however is essential and it doesn’t matter what the source is – it can be coffee, black tea or chocolate, the effect of caffeine will likely be the same.
Many researchers throughout the years have suggested that caffeine is beneficial for the health. But a recent study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, reveals that a daily dose of caffeine, taken after a learning session, may help to boost long-term memory. The research team, led by Daniel Borota of the john Hopkins University in Baltimore, analyzed 160 adults, aged between 18 and 30 years. The participants were not heavy caffeine drinkers, meaning they did not regularly consume caffeinated products.
On the first day of the experiment, they were asked to study a series of images and then, about five minutes later, they were given either 200 mg caffeine pills, or placebo tablets. The objects from the pictures were identified as “indoor” or outdoor” items. The next day, the participants looked at another series of pictures and had to decide whether the items were old, new or similar to the previous collection.
The study author Michael Yassa, who is now an assistant professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California-Irvine, explains that people who took the caffeine pills were better at identifying similar objects than those who took the placebo. The ability of the brain to separate two similar, but not identical items, shows deeper levels of memory are involved. Basically, caffeine helps the brain process information and to make it more permanent.
The other important finding was that 100 mg of coffee was not effective for enhancing the memory, while a dose of 300 mg or more caused some side effects such as headache. The larger dose also didn’t appear to have a more powerful effect on the memory. The typical espresso contains about 80 mg of caffeine, but a larger cup of strong coffee may have indeed about the magic dose. So, the first rule is to drink it after studying, and the second rule is about the dosage.
The research is very interesting, because it shows that caffeine helps a particular part of studying – the ability to remember things for a longer period of time and more precisely. And here, it has nothing to do with alertness and attention, which are in fact, also enhanced by caffeine. But can a cup of coffee or tea help people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that cause memory loss? It is highly unlikely, according to Dr. David Knopman, a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic, at least until the reason for this link is discovered.