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Study: Caffeine may give memory a boost

January 14, 2014

A little bit of coffee can go a long way, according to a new study recently published in Nature Neuroscience. Researchers concluded that one 200-milligram dose of caffeine had the potential to help trial participants recall information with greater detail than those who consumed a dummy pill. The study tested the effects of caffeine on a pool of adults who were not regular drinkers.

The process
While researchers have tested the drug's effects on memory in the past, this trial, led by Michael Yassa, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University, was the first to test the effects of caffeine being consumed after exposure to items meant to be committed to memory. The subjects were shown a number of images, then administered either 200 milligrams of caffeine - the equivalent to a large cup of coffee - or a placebo pill. Twenty-four hours later, after all caffeine had dissipated from the bloodstream, they were shown a group of images that featured the previous day's pictures as well as new, yet only subtly different, ones. They were asked to identify which were new and which were repeated.

The study found that individuals who took the caffeine dose had a higher success rate of differentiating between images. Scientists noted that the key to understanding the drug's effect on memory could be found within the minute changes in the pictures. By correctly identifying mildly altered ones, participants who drank caffeine illustrated how deeply affected their memory receptors were.

How caffeine may help seniors 
Older adults looking to engage in healthy lifestyle choices can rest easy knowing that their morning cup of coffee could lead to health benefits as well as improved memory care. While this study focused primarily on caffeine consumption and its relation to memory, other studies have found that it may reduce the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer's. 

Although the trial found that caffeine had the potential to increase long-term memory, seniors should note that the dose that had the greatest effect on memory was just 200 milligrams. Consuming more or less than that amount did not produce a significant impact on trial members' memories. Furthermore, drinking too much can lead to serious complications, including increased heart rate, blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. Researchers agree that moderate consumption of caffeine may produce the best results with the least number of negative side effects.