Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

Experiment Shows Caffeine Boosts Long Term Memory 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the its-fun-to-stay-up-late dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins has published results demonstrating that caffeine seems to boost long-term memory. In a double-blind study, participants were shown a series of images soon after taking either a caffeine pill or a placebo; 24 hours later they were tested on a similar, but not identical, series of images. Those who took the caffeine pill were more likely to correctly classify images as being different, identical, or similar to those seen the previous day; researchers refer to this as a 'pattern separation' test. The beneficial effect of caffeine on the long-term memory of honey bees was covered by Slashdot earlier."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Experiment Shows Caffeine Boosts Long Term Memory

Comments Filter:
  • so *that's* the secret.
  • So the article costs $32 to read. It begs the question, what are they hiding?
    • by Lazere (2809091)
      I'm not seeing a paywall. Perhaps you haven't had your caffeine yet?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:13AM (#45938759)

      So the article costs $32 to read. It begs the question, what are they hiding?

      Most likely nothing. Yes, they could have submitted it to an open-access journal, but when you've a shot at getting something into Nature Neuroscience then most authors will go for it because, bottom line and right or wrong, it's what Universities and Institutions often look at when deciding who to hire and who to fire.

      Besides, if you wanted to hide something why would you hide it behind a paywall which a large proprotion of research insititutes probably have access to? You're basically advertising your secrets to anyone who is knowledgeable in the field and has a research job.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They're not hiding anything. They're paying for professional editors, typesetters, etc. in order to improve the quality and fix errors. The article published in Nature (and many other high ranking journals) is significantly improved from the one the authors originally submitted.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      It raises the question, not begs.
    • So the article costs $32 to read. It begs the question, what are they hiding?

      They're not hiding anything. They're just hoping non-coffee-drinkers forget they read the article, and purchase it several times over.

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:02AM (#45938659)
    It is always welcome news when something you already engage in is reported to have benefits.

    Like the health benefits of a couple of alcoholic drinks, there will undoubtedly follow a recommended modest dose, beyond which the diminishing returns corollary overtakes any health benefits.

    • by Kongming (448396)

      Certainly; with a high enough dose, the subject would die.

      That aside, the finding is interesting. Based on the summary, I thought that it might just be helping the subjects get closer to the ideal level of psychological arousal for what is probably a simple, routine, and possibly slightly boring task. However, the article states that the subjects were given the pills after having been shown the images, not before, in order to control for that possibility.

      There is still one alternative explanation that I can

    • "That's funny: rmdingler never has a third cup of coffee at home."

    • Also keep in mind that as a nearly universal rule, nothing has completely good effects, and many effects on the brain are subtle. It's unlikely that there aren't long term effects of caffeine that you wouldn't like. Unknown long term negative effects aren't a reason anyone should stop drinking coffee of course, just saying lets not be shocked if researchers find out it, say, decreases your IQ in your senior years or something. It appears to DECREASE your chances of getting alzheimers, which is good, but
      • If there are significant negative effects of drinking coffee then I'd have thought we'd have found out about it by now. Coffee's been around for several hundred years so typical consumption most likely doesn't have bad effects that are easily noticeable.
        • If there are significant negative effects of drinking coffee then I'd have thought we'd have found out about it by now.

          Look at the current study: here's a positive effect of drinking coffee that we didn't know about. What makes negative effects more obvious than positive effects? Negative effects can be subtle and hard to detect, especially given how noisy data from humans is, and especially when talking about long-term effects.

          Look at how long it took for us to realize that tobacco was bad for you overall. People had been smoking that for centuries, yet it's only been in the last few decades that the link to cancer

          • Yes, smaller effects can easily be overlooked. Tobacco hasn't been in major use (excepting occasional ceremonial use by native americans) for as long as coffee, yet it was suspected of being dangerous by the early 19th century. Major usage of tobacco didn't really take off until the late 19th century when the cigarette machinery was developed.

            Negative effects tend to be more noticeable than positive effects as they take effect quicker. If people are dying 10 years before they should be, you're going to sp
  • Coffeine (Score:5, Funny)

    by war4peace (1628283) on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:02AM (#45938661)

    As a heavy caffeine user, I confirm that... hmm... erm... what was I saying?

  • by rodrigoandrade (713371) on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:12AM (#45938757)
    What, we're hiring scientists with severe ADHD now???
  • Raktajino (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:14AM (#45938769)

    Raktajino helps me remember Trek trivia.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Pfft, raktajino is a p'tahk drink. Prune Juice! Now *that's* the drink of a warrior.

  • Cool story bro. However I have completely stopped consuming caffeine. I have noticed that even a cup or two of coffee rather early at day, do have some effect on my sleep. Maybe I have become somehow super sensitive to the effects of caffeine (I do not feel much buzz anymore though). But then again, when you look at the half-life of caffeine, it is something like 5+ hours depending on the person. This would suggest that it takes over a whole day for the caffeine to completely be metabolized, no matter what.
    • Considering the demographics on slashdot, I'm going to take a shot in the dark: caffeine and other stimulants have been noted to have uncommon side-effects in ADHD diagnosed population. Could that be you?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Seeing as how I was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid, I can certainly say that Caffeine and many other stimulants tend to work bass-ackwards on me by putting me to sleep.

        For those interested, look up how/what Ritalin is and what it was approved for, which isn't ADHD

    • I assume that means that you've cut out caffeine from other sources as well? (Soft drinks, teas, various foods.)

      I know someone that can't drink a Coke after 4-5:00 PM or he has trouble getting to sleep.

      • I assume that means that you've cut out caffeine from other sources as well? (Soft drinks, teas, various foods.)

        Sure.

    • Sleep? Nah. But caffeine is also one of the leading causes of diarrhea. So I'm off the stuff. Too bad, a cup of coffee or tea was a nice way to start the day.

  • We are the biped evolution of bees. It's a fact now

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We are the biped evolution of bees. It's a fact now

      Buzz off with your crazy theories!

  • i've found that if i drink the supersize starbucks coffees its the opposite effect. the small size coffees are just right

  • by baffled (1034554) on Monday January 13, 2014 @10:33AM (#45938967)

    The experiment used caffeine during memorization. Does caffeine have any relative effect on recollection?

  • To me caffeine feels like the brain running on overclock, sure it's faster and better at almost anything but afterwards you're dog tired and overall you get less done in total. Still good for the times when performance right now is what matters, for example we used to have these marathon exams of up to 6 hours. Three hours in and head is getting heavy, take a Red Bull and you're good for another three hours. It'd always be a short evening but totally worth it. Same if the party is now, stay awake here and n

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      I find low and regular doses of caffeine to be much more effective than single, high doses. I have a half-litre thermos full of filter coffee which gives me about 50mg of caffeine four times a day. (And because I don't crash or get insomnia, I'm not going out and buying a second or third Red Bull to keep me going.) There seems to be good evidence that low doses of caffeine are effective as performance enhancers, without having particularly serious side-effects. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/p [sciencedirect.com]

  • by tomhath (637240) on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:17AM (#45939387)

    The memory center in the human brain is the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped area in the medial temporal lobe of the brain.

    Then why don't they call it the seahorsecampus? These guys make everything so difficult.

    • >Then why don't they call it the seahorsecampus? These guys make everything so difficult.

      Hippocampus is derived from the Greek words hippos (horse) and kampos (sea monster).

      • by TeknoHog (164938)
        I used to think there is some connection between "campus" as a place of learning and the human memory managemet unit, but I'm not so sure any more...
    • Obligatory [elfwood.com]...
  • by PseudoCoder (1642383) on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:24AM (#45939497)
    destroyed my short term memory. I can't even remember where I put my cup.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      I'm going to guess it's between 30 and 36 inches away from you, between 15 and 75 degrees from straight ahead. Clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on your handedness.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I can't even remember where I put my cup.

      That's because you're married, and since you know for certain that she's going to move the damned thing there's no point in making the effort to remember.

  • For example, does the caffeine whole trying to do last-minute cramming for finals overcome losing so much sleep for so many hours?

    And are there implications for PTSD? (if remember things better, could that increase the chances of PTSD?)

  • Same old... (Score:3, Informative)

    by ccanucs (2529272) on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:32AM (#45939613)

    Coffee's bad for you ....

    Coffee's good for you ....

    Coffee's bad for you ....

    Coffee's good for you ....

    Same old.... (as far as I recall :-) )

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      Vividly remembering a tragic incident isn't always a good thing.

      Good and bad has everything to do with what pathways are being activated, for how long, and what the side effects are. Good and bad should not be judged simply on the final result.

      • by ccanucs (2529272)

        Uh.....

        Huh?

        I was merely commenting on the fact that the common fad is to say "this is bad for you" then - a few weeks later - "this is good for you".

        You were overthinking what I wrote :-)

  • by LeDopore (898286) on Monday January 13, 2014 @11:54AM (#45939903) Homepage Journal

    I have a PhD in sensory neuroscience from UC Berkeley. It could be the effect mentioned in TFA is sensory, not memorization.

    Caffeine is known to increase acetylcholine release. Acetylcholine makes your brain pay more attention to here-and-now details than to its internal model of what's going on.

    I'm also dubious about the idea that any one, simple chemical can ever make you smarter in any general way without adverse consequences. Evolution has a lot of time to scope out all simple neurochemical effects, so beware studies that suggest they've found a "smart pill". Sure, it's possible to take a drug to make you better at one specific task to the detriment of some others, but the idea that there is any simple cognitive enhancing substance would imply either "evolution couldn't mimic the effect of this substance on the brain" or "cognitive enhancement isn't an evolutionary good move". Neither seems very likely.

    • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Monday January 13, 2014 @12:16PM (#45940173)

      Evolution has a lot of time to scope out all simple neurochemical effects, so beware studies that suggest they've found a "smart pill". Sure, it's possible to take a drug to make you better at one specific task to the detriment of some others, but the idea that there is any simple cognitive enhancing substance would imply either "evolution couldn't mimic the effect of this substance on the brain" or "cognitive enhancement isn't an evolutionary good move". Neither seems very likely.

      I'm not seeing the evidence for strong forces selecting for better cognitive performance. It seems like there are a lot of evolutionary niches where brain-power loses out to other specializations.

      Suppose there's a substance that improves overall cognitive processing, but at a metabolic cost that requires 30% more caloric intake? Or suppose it interferes with efficient storage of fat? Either of those would be a deleterious trait in pre-modern populations.

      Suppose it improves cognitive processing, but reduces fertility by 50%? Again, it would be bred out rapidly.

      Many of the constraints that guided our evolutionary history no longer apply. I don't expect a miracle pill, either, but saying "if cognitive enhancers existed we'd already have evolved to produce them" seems kind of disingenuous.

    • Using more energy and producing more heat could both be side effects that are evolutionarily disadvantageous but are not much of a problem in modern society.
    • by ninjabus (3024459)
      I wouldn't be too surprised. Evolution as a tuning process is very effective, but it has issues about getting stuck in just-effective-enough configurations. We evolved to be fairly intelligent, but the body is clearly programmed for using less food energy than is currently available in modern times. There has been some speculative research linking the domestication of fire to increased brain mass. This isn't because larger brains meant we were smart enough to figure out fire, but instead because fire allowe
    • by lpevey (115393)

      I'm also dubious about the idea that any one, simple chemical can ever make you smarter in any general way without adverse consequences. Evolution has a lot of time to scope out all simple neurochemical effects, so beware studies that suggest they've found a "smart pill".

      I think this is a very wise statement. In this case, caffeine is known to increase levels of stress hormones. Many studies have shown that memories during times of stress tend to be more vivid and enduring. (The extreme of this is PTSD.) So the study results are not at all surprising to me. I think more work would have to be done to tease out whether there is any independent effect.

    • Did you miss the "post-study" bit in the title and abstract? Caffeine was delivered after stimulus presentation, excluding a purely sensory effect.

      I guess you could do with a cup of coffee! ;)

      • To be fair, the summary got it exactly backward:

        In a double-blind study, participants were shown a series of images soon after taking either a caffeine pill or a placebo;

  • Well, we can hope. Drink up, editors!

  • The lips carry a stain, the breath is of a dragon, The breath is a warning.

  • Caffeine will make you awake. And being awake seems like good idea for remembering images. If they woke people at 3am, caffeine would probably be even more beneficial. Bucket of cold water would probably work, too...
  • If any part of the research was funded by the feds, they have to publish it electronically on the national open access publications databases.

    Maybe someone else can post a link to that copy?

    I'm busy, but it might be easy to do.

  • That is why I like to start my day with a monster drink and then just before supper I like to break out the peace pipe and have a few hits. Supper always tastes better with a buzz on. And no you do not kill brain cells with weed, alcohol does that. And it's not your father's weed, it's much more potent. Well I hope so, that just means I"m getting what I paid for and my father got ripped off...

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

Working...