September 25, 2020

By BECKY SHEASBY

Students, pick up that coffee mug. If you don’t drink a morning cup of java, you might want to reconsider. New research shows that it might have a surprising perk that would be especially helpful for students.

Research conducted by psychologists and neuroscientists at John Hopkins University shows that coffee helps boost the brain’s “pattern separation” performance, which means it helps with a person’s memory. Pattern separation is the ability to tell the difference between two objects or events that are similar, but not identical.

It takes an average of two small cups of coffee or one strong cup to boost the brain’s pattern separation ability. The stimulant will strengthen the memory for up to 24 hours after the coffee has been consumed.

For this research, researchers studied over 150 people who were not regular caffeine users. Before the researchers gave the participants a dose of coffee, the participants were shown a picture of everyday objects. They were then divided into two separate groups five minutes later where one group was given a placebo and the second group was given a 200 milligram caffeine tablet. Each participant then left and returned 24 hours later.

They were asked to recognize images that they had seen 24 hours previously that were either the same pictures as they saw before, new images or similar images that had been slightly altered.

In a article on CBC.com, Michael Yassa, a co-author of the research paper and an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences said, “We found that those who were administered caffeine actually had better retention of the information we taught them the day before. The caffeine enhanced their ability to say, ‘This item was similar but not identical to the one I’d seen before.”

Pattern separation is our brain’s ability to stay sharp and keep from getting jumbled up. It can also be a crucial tool in learning because it helps us recognize whether a piece of information is new or if it should be assigned a new meaning in our brain’s memory banks.

Based on this research, students will most likely benefit from a cup of “memory tonic;” it will help with that lecture or that exam. Just don’t drink too much of it otherwise you might experience symptoms such as jitteriness or headaches.

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