Want To Improve Your Long-Term Memory? Two Cups Of Coffee, 2 Espressos or 5 Cups Of Green Tea Can Help.
People who drink caffeine tend to have higher test scores and show less memory decline throughout the day. A recent study has provided the first convincing evidence that caffeine can enhance people’s long-term memory, providing the dose is just right.
What’s fascinating about the study is it found test scores significantly declined, from morning to afternoon, in people who regularly drink caffeinated coffee but consumed decaffeinated coffee instead.
Up to three-quarters of adults over the age of sixty-five consider themselves to be ‘morning people’, meaning they believe they are at their most productive in the early hours of the day. This is in stark comparison with less than ten per cent of adults under the age of thirty.
Caffeine has the ability to improve memory, which generally is at its peak in the morning and steadily declines throughout the day. Researchers have always suspected caffeine has the ability to enhance memory but many studies undertaken returned inconclusive.
This is due to the many other factors that can be taken into account such as increased attention by participants.
Studies that were conducted on animals, such as rats, have suggested that caffeine does in fact enhance memory consolidation, the process of strengthening the function of acquiring and retrieving memories, which can affect long-term memory.A French study has found that caffeine may also help preserve the cognitive skills of older women. Karen Ritchie of INSERM, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research explains, “It is a cognitive stimulant, it helps reduce levels of a protein called beta amyloid in the brain, its accumulation is responsible for Alzheimer’s disease and also occurs in the normal ageing process.”
Michael Yassa, a neuroscientist at the University of California, conducted a test by recruiting 160 adults who only consumed a minimal amount of caffeine. He asked the participants to study images of objects and then asked them to ingest a pill containing either 200 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of two cups of coffee) or a placebo.
By doing this Yassa could isolate the effect of caffeine on the participant’s memory in comparison with those who received the placebo. The participants then returned 24 hours later and were asked to take a memory test which involved looking at a set of images containing the images they had seen the day before mixed with similar images and asked to classify them as ‘old’, ‘new’ or ‘similar’.
Yassa’s team recorded no differences in the accuracy of the participants who had taken caffeine pills and the ones who had taken the placebo. Yassa had expected this as it was the easy part of the task, what the participants who receives the caffeine pills did manage, however, was to preform significantly better at identifying images that were ‘similar’ rather than ‘old’ which is a harder task.
Yassa concludes that caffeine does have the ability to enhance long-term memory through the process of memory consolidation. He believes the process of consolidation is likely to begin as soon as a new memory is formed and concluded “This doesn’t mean people should only drink coffee after they have studied, I think you would get the same boost regardless.” The team ran a second experiment in which caffeine was administered one hour before the memory test began, to look at any effects on memory retrieval. They found no such effect occurred to which Yassa explained “Let’s say you studied without coffee and decided to drink a cup the night before an exam, that isn’t going to help you retrieve memories more efficiently.”
The study also revealed that the dose of caffeine is very important. When they repeated the test with 100 milligram and 300 milligram doses, they found that neither had a different effect to the placebo. This could be explained by other effects that come into action when consuming higher doses of caffeine that negate the benefits of memory consolidation. Participants receiving the higher 300 milligram dose reported side-effects such as jitters and headaches.
A similar effect was found in a study involving bees at Arizona State University. Julie Mustard warns “In high concentrations it looks like caffeine is bad for learning, so don’t drink too much!”