Drinking coffee regularly has beneficial effects on memory and learning

Drinking coffee regularly has beneficial effects on memory and learning

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The regular consumption of caffeine lastingly alters the molecular functioning of the cells of theseahorseseat of memory in the brain. This results in a greater neuronal plasticitylikely to facilitate learning and improve memory.

Many people drink coffee. Some do it for taste, and many for the stimulating properties of caffeine. Indeed, the latter increases alertness and concentration in the hours following its consumption. It also has an effect on memory: several epidemiological and experimental studies attest to a benefit in the event of Alzheimer’s disease. A phase 3 study was even launched in 2021, in Lille, to assess the effect of caffeine on the cognitive functions of patients with an early or moderate form of this neurodegenerative disease (CAFCA study).

However, the underlying molecular mechanisms remained unknown. This is why David Blum’s teams at the Lille Neuroscience & cognition (unit 1172 Inserm/University of Lille/CHU of Lille), and of Anne-Laurence Boutillier, at the Laboratory of Cognitive and Adaptive Neurosciences of Strasbourg (UMR7364 CNRS/University of Strasbourg), decided to tackle this question by studying the effects of chronic caffeine consumption in mice. Their study is published in the journal The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Coffee is tasted and declined in many ways around the world. Its consumption would also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. © franz12, Adobe Stock

Caffeinated versus decaffeinated mice

There has been a lot of work on this substance, but which most often focused on acute consumption, that is to say occasional, and not on chronic consumption as is usually observed. In addition, these works do not provide information on the molecular changes induced downstream, once caffeine is fixed on its receptors in the brain. The objective of our project was to understand all this “, they explain.

In the experimental mouse model, the researchers focused their work on the hippocampus, a brain structure that is the main site of memory and is affected in Alzheimer’s disease. They gave the animals daily, orally, a moderate dose of caffeine, roughly equivalent to three cups of coffee a day in humans. After two weeks on this diet, the researchers studied the cells of their hippocampus, without a priori.

They analyzed the expression profile of their Genoa (transcriptomic analyses), the chemical modifications of proteins attached to their DNA which are likely to modify this expression (epigenetic analyses), or even the nature of the proteins and other molecules present in cells (proteomics and metabolomics). This work was carried out in resting animals and in others subjected to a learning task. The results obtained were compared with those observed in mice which had not received caffeine.

“Traces” of caffeine in the hippocampus?

These results, very rich in descriptive terms, allow several observations. First of all, caffeine does leave long-term molecular “traces” in the hippocampus, especially on the epigenetic level. And these traces are not the same depending on the cell type. For example, certain metabolic pathways appear to be down-modulated in non-neuronal cells of the hippocampus (glial cells), while the activity of other pathways is increasing in the neurons. But the most interesting concerns the observations made in a learning situation.

The most interesting concerns the observations made in a learning situation.

As expected during a task oflearning, transcriptional activity that reflects the level of gene expression increases in the hippocampus. This is normal since this structure is mobilized to memorize this task. But we find that this increase is much stronger in animals that consume caffeine regularly.

Looking closer, metabolic pathways reduced by caffeine in glial cells when animals are resting are ultimately activated whenlearning. And those activated in the neurons are even more strongly activated. These data suggest that caffeine acts as a facilitator of the hippocampal response to a memory task, through a concerted action at the level of neuronal and non-neuronal cells. concludes David Blum.

Drinking coffee is good for the memory

More than a stimulant, coffee also improves memory for at least a day. It is in any case the result of a recent study which should encourage students to drink coffee, in moderation, the day before their exams.

Article from Destination Santé, published on January 13, 2014

If coffee has a less good reputation than tea, it would not be bad for health, quite the contrary. Studies have alternately shown that coffee limits the risk of developing certain pathologies such as accidents cerebrovascular (stroke) and certain cancer. Previous work by National Cancer Institute (NCI) also reported that people aged 50 to 71 who drank an average of three cups of coffee a day were better protected against the risk of death from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, strokes, injuries, accidents, from diabetes and even infections. Caffeine consumption would also be associated with a longer healthy life and would have protective effects against the cognitive decline that occurs during the Alzheimer’s disease.

In a new study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers at Johns-Hopkins University in Baltimore (USA) have discovered a new virtue of one of the most consumed drinks in the world. According to them, coffee would stimulate memory, an effect that had never been observed before.

Discovered in 1819 by the German chemist Friedrich Ferdinand Rungen, caffeine is an alkaloid present, among other things, in coffee. It is a stimulant of the central nervous and cardiovascular systems. This new study shows that caffeine also improves memory in humans. © Benjah-bmm27, Wikimedia Commons, DP

Coffee to better identify visual differences

To achieve this result, the team recruited 73 volunteers and asked them to view various images representing objects. Once this operation was carried out, half of the group received a dose of 200 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of two cups of coffeeand the other half received a placebo. The next day, the researchers asked both groups to look at another set of images. Some were the same as the day before, some were new, and some were similar but with some differences.

Both groups were equally successful in distinguishing old from new images. However, those who consumed caffeine were more successful in spotting differences on similar images. This study therefore suggests that caffeine improves memory on a duration at least 24 hours.

“If we had performed a standard memory test experiment without using similar images, we would not have discovered this effect of caffeine.explains Michael Yassa, the director of this research. With these images that are difficult to differentiate, the brain must undertake a somewhat more arduous task. » It is therefore this process, called separation of the model, which is precisely reinforced by caffeine.

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