Study: Caffeine may play role in enhancing memory

The Los Angeles Times reports that according to the results of a 60-participant study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, “the same amount of caffeine you’d find in a grande latte can enhance long-term memory in adults.” The randomized, double-blind study found that “200 milligrams of caffeine in the form of two small pills” appeared to boost participants’ pattern separation memory.

“We report for the first time a specific effect of caffeine on reducing forgetting over 24 hours,” Michael Yassa, a professor of brain science who recently moved his lab from Johns Hopkins University to UC Irvine, said in a statement.

USA Today reports that pattern separation memory is defined as “the brain’s ability to recognize the difference between two similar but not identical items,” or remembering where an object is placed today as opposed to where it was yesterday.

While this study is encouraging, he cautions that high doses of caffeine can have negative effects, such as anxiety, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and headaches. “I’m not going to stop drinking my coffee, but it’s important to be aware of the costs and benefits,” he says. “Drinking coffee late at night is not going to be helpful for most people.”

Registered dietitian Elisa Zied, author of Younger Next Week, says, “The bottom line when it comes to coffee and caffeine intake is that they definitely have their perks, but for some they can have their perils, too. Studies on the possible health benefits related to coffee/caffeine intake will continue to emerge, so no one study should dictate a personal decision to include or exclude it from their diet.”

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