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.
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!