Caffeine enhances short-term memory

Caffeine is currently the most widely used stimulant in the world (it can be found in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate, e.g.). For the first time, researchers have directly demonstrated that caffeine modulates short-term working memory.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Florian Koppelstatter (Medical University Innsbruck, Austria) and his colleagues determined the effects of caffeine consumption on brain activation in a network of modules subserving short-term memory of healthy adult volunteers during a working memory task (working memory represents brain activity required to remember things for a short period of time). When given caffeine (approximately the amount in two cups of coffee), the volunteers demonstrated a tendency towards improved short-term memory skills and reaction times during the given task. The fMRI showed increased activity in brain regions located in the frontal lobe and the anterior cingulum. This shows that caffeine modulates a higher brain function through its effects on distinct areas of the brain. What is exciting is that by means of fMRI, they were able to see increases in neuronal activity along with changes in behaviour.

But, although they have shown that caffeine exerts an influence on the function of the normal brain, we still have to learn more about caffeine’s effect on mental resources. Don’t go to the coffee shop right now …