The Good in Caffeine

Since I’ve been here at Penn State, I can say that I have consumed more caffeine here than I have in my entire life. I have always drank a cup a tea, almost every day, but it was always decaffeinated – I didn’t need it for the caffeine, I just liked it for the test and warmth. But this is not the same for me anymore. I am constantly drink a mix of caffeinated tea and coffee, up to three to four times a day. I can barely make it through the day when I don’t have my cup of coffee and need that caffeine to keep me going. Since this is new to me, I am wondering if there is anything good coming out of this consumption, or if it is bad.

While I am sure that we all know that caffeine can give you that burst of energy and alertness you need to study and cram for a quiz or an exam, there is something else that caffeine gives you that you might not have known about. According to this study done by researches from the John Hopkins University, caffeine has been found to enhance your memory. What is interesting about this is that they were the first to ever look at caffeine’s affect on memory since most studies done on caffeine look at cognitive-enhancement and increases in energy.

The part of your brain that involves memory is the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a very important part to this study because the hippocampus plays a large role in declarative memory. This type of memory is the ability to purposely recall things, which is exactly what the researchers in this experiment are testing.

This study was was a double blind placebo trial with 160 participants in the study. An important aspect to this study was that the participants were all people who did not regularly drink or eat caffeinated products. Those who consistently eat and drink caffeinated products will have a higher tolerance to the affects from caffeine, therefore their data would not help the findings of the study. Participants looked at a series of images and then were given either a placebo or a 200-milligram caffeinated tablet after viewing the images.  Each participant’s caffeine levels were tested and then the next day a series of images were shown again, some being the same from the previous day and some being brand new ones.

Caffeine enhances discrimination performance 24 h after study.

The researchers found that the group of participants who had taken the caffeine tablet were more likely to answer correctly on recalling images from the previous day. To the right, you can see multiple diagrams showing the results at the bottom and also diagrams at the top outlining their experiment.

I think the study that the reasearchers conducted was well done, except I would have provided/stated numbers when it came to how well participants were to recall the images. It was not very specific but could have been. If this were to be conducted again, I would also recommend using more participants; 160 is not that small of an amount, but the results can definitely be more reliable if there are more participants being looked at. Also, declarative memory is a form of short term memory, so maybe there can be another experiment that tests caffeine’s affect on long term memory. This could possibly be done by look at people who have been consuming caffeine for many years instead of people who do not consume it like in this experiment.

I found this study to be extremely interesting and important because we often look at caffeine with negative effects. So the next time you drink coffee, or tea, or have any caffeinated product, start to study a little, then consume it, study a little more, and you should be good to go for your next exam!

6 thoughts on “The Good in Caffeine

  1. Emily Josephine Engle

    This is post is very interesting! I never knew caffeine could improve memory, but i am glad it does because I am a huge coffee drinker. I have gotten so reliable on coffee, that I get a headache if I don’t have at least a cup that day. I looked into more studies conducted about caffeine and memory. One study was conducted on male Wistar mice who received caffeine. They were administered 30 minutes before training, or 30 minutes after or during training. In this study, the results were similar and did show signs that caffeine does have a positive impact on memory. This particular study showed that the caffeine was most effective on memory when it was administered after training, not before.


  2. Rebecca Danielle Schneider

    I enjoyed reading your blog as I am also an avid coffee drinker, especially here at school. From your blog, I could tell that you have become very knowledgable on how coffee affects one’s memory. You have some nice ideas for how the study could have been conducted better, which I agree with. Despite how much I love coffee and how bias I am, I will admit that it is still unclear if coffee is good or bad for you. But I think it depends on a lot of confounding variables such as quantity, flavoring, etc. Coffee has the ability to have a lot of other positive effects as well if used in moderation. It can even increase one’s life span! Here’s a remarkable sstudy I found that shows how coffee drinkers have a lower risk of death, among other health benefits.

  3. Abigail Marie Young

    Although caffeine may be an energy/memory booster, it may also have damaging effects. It would be interesting if you perhaps did a followup blog on the dangers of caffeine, some factors being the sugary drinks it is in, what the drug does to the rest of your body, and so on and so forth. I do however find this interesting, and it really does make sense, being energized makes you more focused, but I agree with you that more studies need to be done. Another interesting branch off from this topic could be the discussion of drugs meant for treating ADHD on normal students, both the positive and negative effects would be something to think about.

  4. Rachel Coblentz

    While this doesn’t have exactly to do with whether coffee or not improves memory, your mention of a placebo in a coffee experiment sparked a thought. Just like you, I barely drank coffee before college. Now that I do drink coffee more often, I’ve noticed I still don’t drink very much. I’ll get the smallest size possible and still only drink half of of it. However, I feel so much more energized. This makes me wonder if there is a placebo effect with coffee. Do I just feel less tired because I think coffee should wake me up? This article explores this possibility!

  5. sdm5399

    I think it’s a very important aspect of critical thinking in all aspects of scientific professions to look effectively at multiple sides of a product or a situation, apart from popular or generally accepted schools of thought. Coffee is usually seen as an addictive kind of habit that people form when they need some kind of edge to keep up with their work or their studies! I think a more interesting development that would expound upon the results of the studies you showed would be to test the effect of caffeine on the different types of memory further (i.e. between short-term or working memory and access or long-term/ declarative memory). The way human beings learn is basically being able to manipulate newer information and sift through what is needed for a short time and what will be adapted into a long-term use to be modified and easily recallable from the point of learning. Can caffeine affect this process of differing between what is only short-term knowledge and long-term, and either help or hurt the studying process by making overall progress in a semester degrade? this article discusses that concept a bit, with a study on short-term recognition capabilities from varying doses of caffeine.

  6. Danielle Lindsey Deihl

    This post is really interesting; I also didn’t know that caffeine could improve memory. An extension to this idea of the benefits of caffeine is the theory that caffeine may be able to prevent Parkinson’s. This article on the Scientific American website explains studies that have been done to test this hypothesis. At first, researchers suggested, “rather than caffeine protecting against the disease, it might be that Parkinson’s patients have a tendency to avoid addictive substances”. A later study performed on mice, however, clearly demonstrated that caffeine has protective effects on dopamine levels in the brain, known to be reduced by Parkinson’s. It is still unknown how these results will translate to humans, but it is clear that caffeine has much greater benefits than an energy boost.

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