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The Effects of Caffeine on Memory & Learning

author image Zoe Glass
Zoe Glass has been writing journalism, essays and fiction since 2001. Her articles have been featured in publications including literary journals "Beatdom" and "Denali," the music magazine "Mixmag" and the London newspaper "Snipe." Glass holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Pennsylvania and is studying for a Master of Letters in writing at the University of Glasgow.
The Effects of Caffeine on Memory & Learning
Caffeine can benefit learning. Photo Credit Lori Lee Miller/Photodisc/Getty Images

Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in the world, according to the Radiological Society of North America, and you probably ingest some quantity of caffeine every day in the form of coffee, tea, caffeinated soft drinks or chocolate. You may enjoy it as a pick-me-up, research shows caffeine does more than just keep you awake. The effects of caffeine on memory and learning are the subject of scientific study, and a number of studies show that caffeine has a discernible positive effect on your mental powers.

Improves Short-Term Memory

Research presented at a Radiological Society of North America conference shows that caffeine has a measurable effect on short-term memory. The study surveyed a group of healthy adult volunteers using memory tasks and functional magnetic resonance imaging to observe the changes in their brains. Volunteers who were given caffeine showed a tendency toward improved short-term memory and had quicker reaction times than their non-caffeinated counterparts.

Combats sleep deprivation

According to the journal "Sleep," there is a strong correlation between sleep deprivation and memory impairment in humans and animals. However, studies show that caffeine can help overcome the negative effects of too-little sleep. Scientists found giving sleep-deprived rodents regular, low doses of caffeine reduced the harmful effect of sleep deprivation on memory. "Sleep" also notes that long-term caffeine intake may prevent learning and memory impairment related to brain disorders like Alzheimer's disease.


Caffeine may aid learning by helping children concentrate and by improving their memory and motor skills, according to a study reported in the "Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology." A double-blind study showed that school children who ingested caffeine performed better in attention tests, and showed greater manual dexterity and alertness than children given a placebo. The study suggests that caffeine can be an aid to learning by providing a short-term boost to necessary study and attention skills.

Treats ADHD

Studies show that caffeine may be beneficial in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, though according to a report in "Current Pharmaceutical Design" it is less commonly used than other drugs such as Ritalin. However, the article notes that caffeine is innocuous to children, and represents a safer option for controlling ADHD symptoms than psychoactive drugs whose long-term effects are not well understood.

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