The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 14, 2014

Caffeine may help you forget less, study says

If you have trouble remembering where you parked the car, you might consider making a double shot espresso part of your daily routine.

A new study in the journal Nature Neuroscience suggests that the same amount of caffeine you’d find in a grande latte can enhance long-term memory in humans.

“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 the University of California-Irvine, said in a statement.

To test how caffeine affects memory in the human brain, researchers at Yassa’s lab at Johns Hopkins recruited 60 people who have a relatively low daily caffeine intake. Subjects were asked to look at 200 pictures of everyday objects like a chair, or a coffee mug on a screen and tell the researchers whether the object was an indoor item or outdoor item.

“It didn’t matter what they said; we just wanted them to pay attention to the pictures,” said Yassa.

Five minutes after the volunteers completed the task, half of them were given 200 milligrams of caffeine in the form of two small pills. The other half were given two placebo pills that looked exactly the same. The study was double blind, so neither the subjects nor the researchers knew who got the caffeine pills and who got the placebos.

The next day, the subjects were asked to look at another set of images and identify which pictures they had seen the day before, which pictures were new, and which pictures were similar, but a little different to the ones they had already seen. For example, maybe a coffee cup that was a different color, or a chair photographed from a different angle.

While both groups had the same success rate when it came to identifying pictures that were the same and pictures that were different, the volunteers who received the caffeine pills were better at remembering that a picture was similar, but a little different to one they had seen before.

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