(NaturalNews) Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that is widely used on a daily basis. We know of caffeine as a brain stimulant and consume it to stay active and wakeful. However, lesser known effects of caffeine on memory and cognition have confounded researchers for years. New research has disclosed some interesting and previously unknown influences of caffeine on the human brain.
A study published in journal Nature Neuroscience (Feb, 2014) demonstrated a fascinating effect of caffeine on long-term human memory. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Irvine, conducted a study to investigate the effects of caffeine administration on human learning by taking an uncommon approach. Caffeine was given to the subjects "after" their learning exercise in a double-blind study involving caffeine-naive subjects. Participants were asked to memorize images and then administered with caffeine; salivary samples were collected to analyze for caffeine metabolized products. The subjects were tested for memory performance after 24 hours and were asked to evaluate old/new and similar items as shown to them on previous day.
Caffeine enhanced memory retrieval performance in the test subjects, which means they were better able to recall the memory acquired on the previous day. Even more interesting, although "basic recognition memory" was unaltered, retrieval of memory improved. This means that the brain of caffeinated subjects programmed and stored the visuals/memories better than the placebo subjects, and they could thus recall better.
Furthermore, a high dosage (200 mg) of caffeine consolidates memory better than lower dosage (100 mg). The authors also concluded that 200 mg is an ideal amount for memory consolidation. However, dosages higher than 300 mg were not studied, and it cannot be said if the consolidating effects increase with dosage. Therefore, there is no evidence to believe that higher dosages necessarily increase memory consolidation. The exact mechanism by which caffeine does so has not yet been deciphered. Scientists believe that it could be due to the role played by caffeine in inhibiting the adenosine function, which has adverse effects on memory functioning.
Caffeine has also been scientifically proven to show neuroprotective effects.
Caffeine showed damage reversal in brain of type II diabetic mice (i.e. neurodegeneration reversal) and restored memory-based performance.
In old and sleep-deprived humans (as well as rodents), caffeine restores memory. Rodents with Alzheimer's disease (AD) showed reduced dysfunctional memory after consuming caffeine.
Scientists have proposed that consuming caffeine may play a preventive as well as therapeutic role in AD and other memory-related problems.
It is equally important for caffeine lovers not to ignore its downside. Previous studies (covered on Natural News) have shown that caffeine puts adrenal glands in a fight or flight function and stimulates secretion of adrenaline and noradrenaline. It generates an emergency response in normal conditions, which stimulates the central nervous system and increases alertness but eventually leads to stress, exhaustion and fatigue.
Nonetheless, this latest research reveals interesting properties of caffeine -- either a cognitive enhancer or a stabilizer. This also suggests the possibility of exploring caffeine or its derived molecules as a potential drug for Alzheimer disease.
Meanwhile, for us to enjoy a guilt-free morning cup of coffee, perhaps the trick lies in finding the right balance.
About the author: Dr. Sagwal has a Ph.D. in Medicinal chemistry. She has worked on the drug design and discovery of antimicrobial and anticancer agents and has published peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals. With a fascination for science, nature and its medicinal powerhouse, it is her passion to share and spread the knowledge from latest scientific discoveries. The information is based upon scientific experiments, facts, analyses and peer-review. We could use it to stay healthy, keep fit, prevent diseases or simply be happy. Dedicated to all those who want to live an aware and informed life. Cheers!!