Caffeine Can Boost Memory


Health experts have proven negative side effects can result from drinking caffeinated beverages, such as the jitters and headaches. Now experts are saying that caffeine benefits the brain because caffeine can boost memory. Clinical trials have proven caffeine can improve memory for up to 24 hours. Reports also show that it is possible to have a double-shot of espresso to correct forgetfulness.

The premise of proving caffeine can boost memory came from Michael Yassa, a professor of brain science of UC Irvine. Yassa and his team of researchers executed a clinical trial to substantiate his point. Yassa and his team recruited 60 people who have relatively low caffeine intake to participate as subjects. He began the study by showing various pictures to each test subject. The pictures displayed common objects such as chairs, shoes and coffee mugs. Each subject was expected to verbally identify each object to a researcher. After identifying the objects in each picture, the subjects were given 200 milligrams of caffeine pills. Half of the subjects received real caffeine pills while others unknowingly were given placebos. This clinical trial was double blinded because the researchers  also didn’t know which pills were placebos.

The subjects returned the next day to continue the trial. The researchers presented another set of pictures to the subjects with surprising results. Yassa asked the subjects to “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.” An example is a pair of shoes with slightly different colors. Yassa and his team were surprised of the final results. Though the subjects were randomly given caffeine pills and placebos, both groups were able to recall similar objects and colors. However, the group given the former were able to vividly describe details of objects.

Yassa explains this type of memory is called pattern separation memory. Pattern separation memory is the ability to separate the components of memories into more distinct memory models that are distinct and less easily confused. An example of this is a person remembering where he or she has parked their car and separating that memory from previous days of where the car was parked.

After analyzing the results, Yassa reached the conclusion that a small dosage of caffeine is sufficient for improving memory. But the professor wanted to know if increasing the dosage will have the same results. Yassa and his team of researchers asked the same test subjects to return for further analysis. This time Yassa gave each subject 300 milligrams of caffeine pills and noticed the negative side effects, such as jitteriness and naseau resulted from the higher dosage.

Yassa proved his theory correctly that caffeine can boost memory. He also believes that caffeine might help combat declined brain functions such as Alzheimer’s disease. So having a cup of coffee will help improve forgetfulness and enhance other health benefits, such as staying hydrated. Yassa’s next research want to answer the question of why caffeine help jolt memory.

By Bridget Cunningham


Los Angeles Times

Star Tribune

University of Cambridge

NY Daily News


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