Coffee May Help with Memory

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Move over, gingko biloba. Why take an herbal remedy to help you with your memory when that cup of coffee you enjoy every morning does the same thing?

New research from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California in Irvine has found that those who drink at least two cups of coffee (caffeinated, sorry decaf-lovers) may be able to better develop certain types of memories than those who don’t.

They recruited young adults who don’t usually drink much coffee — less than 500 milligrams of caffeine a week, or about five cups of coffee — and who hadn’t had any before the experiment. The volunteers were shown lots of pictures of objects, such as a seahorse, a basket, and a saxophone, and then asked whether each picture depicted an indoor or outdoor item. Soon after looking at the pictures, the volunteers took a pill containing either 200 milligrams of caffeine (which is equivalent to about two cups of coffee) or a placebo.

When the participants returned to the lab the following day, they were given images and asked to label the ones they saw the day before. Some of the images included blatantly obvious additions, but others had extremely subtle differences.

For instance, whereas one of the “old” pictures was a wicker basket with two handles, one of the “similar” pictures was a wicker basket with one handle and a blue blanket peeking out from under its lid.

Those who had taken a caffeine pill picked out those subtle differences far more often than those who did not.

When the team gave the subjects enough caffeine to equal 3 cups of coffee, the results did not change. Drinking a whole pot of coffee will not give you a super memory. However, when they ran the test and gave participants enough caffeine for just one cup of coffee, they performed no better than those who received the placebo.

Of course the research team will not come straight out and say that coffee itself will help your memory, but we’re going to say that on their behalf. It’s just another example how coffee is good for you and how it helps you stay awake, alert, and productive.

Have you had your two cups today?

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