98 Caffeine and Memory

Based on research by Daniel Borota et al., 2014, written by Kyle Piecora, M.S.

Whether via coffee or energy drinks, caffeine is one of the most widely used substances for energy.  Other than providing a pick-me-up, does caffeine offer anything else helpful?

Psychology researchers from Johns Hopkins and the University of California at Irvine had individuals study images of objects in hopes they would identify, and store the pictures in their minds for later recognition.  After the subjects looked at the pictures, researchers gave each subject either a caffeine or a placebo pill.  The next day, all subjects were shown many more pictures, and asked to recognize those they had seen 24 hours earlier.  The subjects who ingested caffeine the day before recognized significantly more pictures than those who received placebos. However, the research did not determine the most effective “dose” of caffeine.

So, caffeine may be helpful in the encoding of information, that is, how we store information for later recognition.  It is unclear as to whether caffeine helps us recall information later without the help of visual or other reminders.

Students, yes caffeine may help you recognize things you are trying to study, but use caffeine in moderation, as it is a stimulant drug –excessive use may have harmful physiological and psychological side effects!


Borota, D., Murray, E., Keceli, G., Chang, A., Watabe, J. M., Ly, M., … & Yassa, M. A.  (2014).  Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans.  Nature Neuroscience, 17(2), 201-204.

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