One of the memory supplements that is used most in scientific studies is the good ol’ cup of coffee. It not only makes sure that the subjects in a study are awake – which is quite an accomplishment during some amazingly boring tests – but these memory supplements also boost concentration, mood and memory.
I never used to drink coffee – let’s be honest, that taste needs a lot of sugar and milk. However, after reading a couple of studies where the subjects on caffeine outperformed the control subjects, I always made sure I had a pot of coffee before I started studying for a test.
And it worked: my grades improved.
Memory supplements like caffeine boost concentration, mood and memory
I was probably the last one to find out about the benefits of coffee: caffeine appears to be the number 1 drug consumed in the United States and Europe. American adults, for example, drink more than 300mg of caffeine a day in their lattes, colas and teas. While a normal dose of caffeine is considered 100mg a day – one cup of coffee. This doesn’t mean that someone who drinks 3, 4 or, like some of my friends, 8 cups of coffee a day, is 3, 4 or 8 times as sharp, clever or happy as someone who drinks just one cup. The benefits of caffeine have its limits and continued exposure these memory supplements results in a tolerance for the drug. Not only needs a heavy coffee drinker more caffeine to boost their brain power, withdrawal can also result in a drop in blood pressure which can result in headaches.
What are the effects of a latte, macchiato or memory supplements with caffeine on the brain?
Caffeine stimulates nerve cells in the brain, which release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). This hormone increases heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow to the muscles. Along other pathways in the brain, caffeine also increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical through which the brain cells communicate. Dopamine is known to be important in learning.
Coffee, cola and tea are also memory supplements
But you don’t have to look on a neuronal level to see the effects of caffeine in the brain. In studies that used fMRI scanners, which make pictures of the brain while the subject is performing a task, it was shown that brain areas that are involved in retaining information were more active after caffeine intake. In other words, caffeine does not only make one more alert, coffee, cola and tea are also memory supplements.
Because of this close link between memory and caffeine, researchers have started to explore whether there is a relationship between memory loss, a major symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, and caffeine intake. First studies show indeed that middle-aged people who drink moderate amounts of coffee significantly reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
However, it is still too early to come up with a conclusive answer whether memory supplements like caffeine can protect against Alzheimer’s disease. In energy drinks for example, caffeine seems to lose its memory effect.