Coffee stimulates not only your mind, but your memory too

“What I've taken from this is that I should keep drinking my coffee”, states the neuroscientist Michael Yassa who carried out a study on coffee. The ability to tell the difference between different objects, patterns or situations may be crucial in everyday life, and coffee could turn out to be a significant ally in this task.

The team of Michael Yassa at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore described how people who had drunk coffee after looking at images turned out to be better than others in identifying these same images from similar images on the following day.
The study included 44 volunteers who were not big coffee-drinkers. They were asked to not drink any coffee for at least a day, and then a series of very different pictures (apple, chair, hammer…) were shown to them quickly on a computer screen.
While the images were being shown, the volunteer had to state whether the object was usually found indoors or outdoors, but they were not asked to memorize these images.
Once the activity was over, a tablet of 200 mg of caffeine or a placebo was allocated to each participant, bearing in mind that a cup of coffee contains around 150 mg of caffeine.

On the next day, the volunteers were shown a series of images which included images they had seen the day before as well as completely different images and images that were more or less similar to those they had seen the day before. For each image, they had to state whether they had seen the image the day before, if it was a new image or if it was similar to one they had seen the day before. The results were the same for the test and placebo groups for the new images and those that were seen the day before. However, the group that had been given coffee turned out to be better when it came to distinguishing between the differences on similar images, which is a more difficult task for the brain, and is referred to as “model separation”.

These results suggest that coffee, in a moderate amount, might help this particular memorization process. The mechanism of action of coffee remains unclear, but there is a theory that states that coffee increases the amount of a hormone called norepinephrine which is involved in memory preservation. Some scientists, however, remain skeptical about the conclusions drawn by the team of Michael Yassa because according to them, more proof is needed to believe that coffee has such effects.
Source: Daniel Borota et al. Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans. Nature Neuroscience 17, 201-203 (2014); doi:10.1038/nn.3623


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