Coffee stimulates short-term memory - 1 December, 2005

Caffeine perks up brains, particularly short-term memory, Austrian researchers reported on Wednesday. It is no news that caffeine is the world's most widely used stimulant. It can be found not only in coffee, tea, soft drinks, but also in chocolate. The results, presented this week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, are the first to demonstrate a visible impact on the brain from caffeine. Americans consume an average of 238 milligrams of caffeine daily, which is the equivalent of four-and-a-half cups of coffee. Scandinavians have the highest daily caffeine intake, 400 milligrams daily, according to

Previous studies had shown how caffeine might be enhancing memory, in that it binds to brain receptors, blocking the calming effect of the adenosine neurotransmitter. But only now has this mechanism been shown to increase brain activity.

Dr Florian Koppelstatter of the Medical University Innsbruck, Austria, reported: "We were able to show that caffeine modulates a higher brain function through its effects on distinct areas of the brain."

In a study of 15 healthy men ages 26 to 47, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) detected significant activity in the brain's memory centers 20 minutes after the men consumed 100 mg of caffeine, according an Austrian study.

After consuming caffeine, all the men showed a tendency toward improved reaction times on the test, compared to when they had no caffeine, reports.

How long did the effects last? The study didn't test that. In their report, the scientists don't make any recommendations about caffeine. I.L.

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