Caffeine is widely known to be present in our everyday coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks. People tend to consume as such despite its known negative effects in the body. Now, numerous studies started to prove that caffeine has many health benefits. A US study has raised the possibility that a dose of caffeine after a learning session may help to boost long-term memory. This is according to a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
The Johns Hopkins University study led by Daniel Borota cites that although previous research has analyzed the effects of caffeine as a cognitive enhancer, whether caffeine can impact long-term memory has not been studied in detail.
To detect its impact, the research tested the memories of 160 people, aged between 18 and 30 years, over 24 hours.
Saliva samples were taken, to check base levels of caffeine, then participants were asked to look at a series of different images and were asked to identify them as “indoor” or “outdoor” items.
Several minutes after the task, the participants were given either a 200-milligram caffeine tablet, which equivalent to the caffeine in a large cup of coffee, or a placebo tablet.
The next day, both groups were also tested on their ability to recognize the previous day’s images, whether the pictures were “new,” “old” or “similar to the original pictures.”
From this, it was found out that more members who took 200 mg of caffeine were able to correctly identify “similar” images, rather than participants who took the placebo.
However, the researchers noted that both groups were able to accurately distinguish whether pictures were old or new.
The team conducted further experiments using 100 mg and 300 mg doses of caffeine. They found that performance was better after the 200 mg dose, compared with the 100 mg dose, but there was no improvement after the 300 mg of caffeine, compared with 200 mg.
“Thus, we conclude that a dose of at least 200 mg is required to observe the enhancing effect of caffeine on consolidation of memory,” the study authors write.
The team also found that memory performance was not improved if subjects were given caffeine 1 hour before carrying out the picture identification test.
This study was different because the subjects took the caffeine after, rather than before, they had seen and attempted to memorize the images.
The researchers said their findings do not mean people should rush out and drink lots of coffee, eat lots of chocolate – or take lots of caffeine pills.
They stressed that there are many possibilities as to how caffeine may enhance long-term memory. For example, they say it may block a molecule called adenosine, preventing it from stopping the function of norepinephrine – a hormone that has been shown to have positive effects on memory.
They note that further research should be conducted to better understand the mechanisms by which caffeine affects long-term memory.
Dr Ashok Jansari, from the University of East London’s school of psychology, said he would definitely not advise that people start taking in as much caffeine as possible since in terms of memory anything above 200 mg may not help much could lead to negative consequences for the body.
Benefits and Risks
As mentioned earlier, the main sources of the compound are coffee, tea and soft drinks. Take note that the average American consumes 300 mg of caffeine a day, according to the latest figures from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Many studies have suggested that caffeine offers health benefits. Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that caffeinated drinks may reduce the risk of liver disease, while another study says drinking 2-4 cups of coffee a day may reduce suicide risk.
But it is not all good news. One study suggests that the stimulant is able to disrupt sleep patterns hours after consuming it, while another proposes that caffeine from energy drinks may alter heart function.
One researcher also emphasized that caffeine can have side effects like jitteriness and anxiety in some people and that its benefits have to be weighed against the risks.