In the ancient battle between "caffeine: healthful performance enhancer" and "caffeine: destroyer of men," a victory has been won for those with a raging coffee addiction. According to a new study in Nature Neuroscience, caffeine may enhance memory.
A team at Johns Hopkins University asked more than 100 people to look at pictures of objects, like, for instance, a rubber ducky, a saxophone and a four-leaf clover. Afterward, they were given either 200 mg caffeine pill (a little less than what’s in a small Starbucks coffee) or a placebo. The next day, the subjects returned to look at more pictures, and this time determine whether they were completely new images, or pictures from the previous day.
Participants who had received the caffeine pill were better at distinguishing between pictures that looked similar, but were new to the test—like a rubber ducky that had a lightning bolt on it, versus the plain original—than members of the placebo group, who more often categorized these similar pictures as "old." Lower doses of caffeine didn’t have the same effect, nor did taking the caffeine right before the test.
The study’s authors aren’t entirely sure why caffeine might help our brains consolidate our memories, and more research (with larger sample sizes) will definitely be in order to figure that out. Until then, feel a little more righteous by categorizing your cup of joe as a learning enhancer.