STORY BY LAURA VOLLMER
Cozying up to your vanilla latte in the treacherous snowstorm surprisingly does more than keep you warm. Recent studies suggest that caffeine may have more positive than negative effects on your long-term memory.
Caffeine can come in a variety of forms: coffee, tea, soft drinks, tablets and energy drinks. What the public sees in these beverages is an untapped source of energy that can prolong their day. Caffeine also has protective effects on the human body. It helps with sleep apnea and Parkinson’s disease.
It is a globally used substance for all its benefits.
Most caffeine consumers, is also believe that this substance can enhance and prolong their long-term memory versus short-term memory, but that isn’t exactly true.
Caffeine is a brain stimulant and also blocks receptors for a chemical called adenosine, which normally prevents the release of excitatory brain chemicals.
With less adenosine available, chemicals can enhance long-term memory. The amount of caffeine needed to produce these effects varies from person to person, depending on body size and degree of tolerance.
“Caffeine is helpful for short-term memory but it doesn’t allow for that information to be processed well enough to be stored in the long-term memory. So, while staying up late and cramming is helpful for me to pass a test the next day, I find that I hardly remember the information when it comes to study for finals,” Kevin Maisto, a junior business major, said.
A recent study at Johns Hopkins University published in Nature Neuroscience states that caffeine enhances certain memories at least up to 24 hours after it is consumed.
The researchers found that giving people caffeine after they memorized a series of pictures drastically boosted their ability to remember smaller details, compared to people who’d been given placebo pills.
Long- and short-term memory aren’t the only method enhancements of caffeine. Caffeine is also rumored to help facilitate learning in varied ways.
A study published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that this was true.
The study concluded that caffeine facilitates learning in tasks where the information is presented passively. But in tasks that presented material intentionally, caffeine had no effect on learning.
Marissa Ausman, a third-year pharmacy student states her experience with caffeine.
“Honestly, I find that it’s all relative to a persons baseline neuroactivity. For some, it may make them go off the wall and be so anxious and for others it has no effect,” Ausman said.
“There are the few fortunate ones who are put in an even keeled zone where it can improve their concentration and thus allow them to memorize material more easily.”
Overall, one must consider the benefits and disadvantages of their caffeine choice.