Coffee: When you drink matters, according to new neuro study
The original version of this article incorrectly stated that the study about the honey bees’ reaction to caffeine was conducted by UA neuroscience professor Wulfila Gronenberg. However, the study’s leader is actually Geraldine Wright, a reader in neuroethology at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University. The _Daily Wildcat regrets the error._
Many of us consume it daily. Some of us would call it an addiction. A researcher and caffeine addict himself, Daniel Borota of Johns Hopkins University and his colleagues are taking caffeine addiction to another level: Their recent study suggests that consuming caffeine after studying could boost long-term memory.
“The more I started to drink coffee, the more I wondered about the effects it was having on my cognition,” Borota said.
The participants were shown a series of images and were then given either a caffeine dose of about as much as a tall Starbucks coffee or a dummy pill with no influence called a placebo. A day later, they asked the same participants to view and identify images that were new, old or similar. They concluded that those who took the caffeine pill achieved better scores and thus more effective long-term memory.
Grace Pierson/ The Daily Wildcat Armed with his Starbucks coffee, Lloyed Cho, an undeclared freshman, gets a head start on his English paper in front of the Science and Engineering Library Wednesday.
“No one had looked into the effect of caffeine on long-term memory in humans,” Borota said. “Through some collaborative work, we took it upon ourselves to learn more about caffeine’s effects on memory.”
The study’s results inspire a practical question for many students: Should we be drinking coffee after studying?
“It’s a little hard to compare to real situations,” said Wulfila Gronenberg, an associate professor at the UA department of neuroscience. “The study was a short test showing a couple of pictures. When you are studying for an exam, it takes much longer, but I think it suggests there is a small advantage of drinking some coffee immediately after or while you study.”
Summer Contreras, a public health junior, said the study’s results aren’t going to change how she gets her dose of caffeine. Like most coffee lovers, she has a routine.
“I really like coffee,” Contreras said, “especially first thing in the morning.”
She is a daily consumer and drinks two to three cups every morning. She said that she would not consider having an extra cup after a study session, however, because it would keep her awake all night.
But it turns out caffeine’s memory-boosting ability isn’t just for humans. A study by Geraldine Wright, a reader in neuroethology at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, found that caffeine increased the long-term memory of honey bees.
The bees in the study were trained to associate a flower’s scent with its nectar. Bees that were given caffeinated nectar were three times more likely to remember the flower’s scent compared to bees given non-caffeinated nectar, according to the study.
These results may be significant, but the exact neuroscience behind caffeine’s use as a memory booster is still a mystery.
“The next step is to determine the brain mechanisms underlying caffeine’s enhancing effect on memory,” Borota said.