Your Daily Coffee Just Might Jolt Your Memory
New study suggests caffeine not only wakes you up, but also may aid your recall
People who had taken the caffeine were better at distinguishing the similar pictures from the original ones, and those who had received the placebo were more likely to incorrectly identify the similar images as the old images, the researchers said.
Yassa said the caffeine-induced ability to recognize similar, but not identical, images did not occur when people were given smaller doses of caffeine or when caffeine was ingested an hour before the picture test.
"On caffeine, the participants were more likely to identify the similar items correctly as similar and not old," he said. "In doing so, this demonstrates that the caffeine enhanced the brain's consolidation process -- the process of making those items more permanent in their memory."
The idea, Yassa said, is that outside the lab, you could have the same benefit from your caffeine habit.
"It might allow you to remember things -- to retain memories -- for a longer period of time and with more precision, even if you eliminate the other benefits of caffeine, like attention, alertness and vigilance," Yassa said.
Dr. David Knopman, a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said the results are interesting from a pharmacologic perspective. "Taking it at face value, it's interesting research," Knopman said. "It raises some questions about what's involved in learning and how certain drugs might enhance learning in normal people."
But Knopman said he doesn't think the finding has any practical significance for people with memory loss due to Alzheimer's disease.
Yassa, who also studies aging and Alzheimer's, said more research is needed to figure out why caffeine might enhance memory.
The study didn't actually prove that caffeine improves memory, however. One limitation of the study is that participants knew they were involved in caffeine research, the researchers said.
In the United States, 80 percent of adults consume caffeine every day, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.