Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK


Sci/Tech

Caffeine clue to better memory

Caffeine, found in coffee, could improve memory

By BBC News Online's Damian Carrington

Researchers in Israel have shown that caffeine makes existing brain cells swell and new ones grow.

Dr Menahem Segal, at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, told BBC News Online that making the connection between this growth and better memory and learning capability is "a long jump, but it is what we are aiming for".

The scientists grew rat neurones in the laboratory and then added caffeine. The brain cells, called dendritic spines and taken from a region of the brain called hippocampus, grew by 33% and new spines formed. The cells returned to their original shape after an hour or two.

Better learning


[ image: The results have not been tested in vivo]
The results have not been tested in vivo
"We are studying the spines because everyone assumes that they are related to learning and memory and so intuitively you would say that the more spines there are, the better learner you are," said Dr Segal.

Having shown that the spines do grow, "the next step, which we have already begun, is to see if these cells with larger or longer spines can learn better," he added.

The growing brain cells produced "could be one reason" for the potential improvement in memory and learning ability brought about by drinking caffeine-containing drinks, such as tea and coffee.

Increased arousal

But there could be other factors: "We believe you may have other effects of caffeine which would help you through a hard day. Drinking coffee may help improve memory because of an increased attention and arousal level," said Dr Segal.

And he calculates that a lot of caffeine is needed to be sure of seeing the cell growth effect - about ten cups.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Sci/Tech Contents


Relevant Stories

11 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
Looking through cats' eyes

29 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
Exercise boosts brainpower

22 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
The chemistry of forgetting

07 Jan 99 | Sci/Tech
Best brain boosts artificial life





Internet Links


Weizmann Institute Neurobiology

PNAS

Caffeine FAQs


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

World's smallest transistor

Scientists join forces to study Arctic ozone

Mathematicians crack big puzzle

From Business
The growing threat of internet fraud

Who watches the pilots?

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer