There are few students that have coffee to thank for getting them through university, though the reason for this may not be the one you think.
The key of its success is a substance called caffeine (C8H10N4O2), which not only helps fight sleep, therefore allowing students to stay up all night studying, but a new study suggests it might also help strengthen long term memory.
Before this study, it was a known fact that memories were more intense thanks to caffeine, but the explanation for this was that it increased attentiveness and alertness. However, researcher Michael Yassa from the University of California put together 2 groups of individuals, and gave a pill containing 200 milligrams of caffeine to one group, and a placebo to the other. Then, they were made to analyse some images, and a day later, returned, and took a test. The test displayed 3 types of images: some from the ones they’d been shown, some similar to these, and some completely new.
The results were clear. The difference between the groups in distinguishing the old images and the new ones was insignificant, but there was a considerable difference in the identification of the old ones and the similar ones.
This proved that caffeine helps in the process of memory consolidation, meaning it helps make memories stay longer in our mind. So studying with a cup of coffee will help make you remember the information better, though the amount of caffeine is very important. Too little caffeine won’t do the job, and too much could have side effects such as headaches. The perfect amount is about 200 milligrams, which is the equivalent of two espressos.
But, unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that having a cup of coffee just before an exam will bring back the memories of the answers. Caffeine helps make longer lasting memories, not recall them better.