Caffeine boosts signals in the hippocampus

New research shows that even a small hit of caffeine strengthens the connections between brain cells in the hippocampus. In rats, anyway. Apparently, most scientific studies of how caffeine affects the brain involve ultrahigh doses of the chemical. But in the experiments conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, rats were give the equivalent of two human cups of coffee (adjusted for the rodent's weight). From Science News:

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Nerve cells in this particular nook (of the hippocampus) — a brain region called CA2 — got a major jolt from caffeine, showing a bigger burst of electrical activity when researchers stimulated the cells. Nerve cells in a neighboring part of the hippocampus didn't show this sensitivity.

And the higher the caffeine dose, the stronger the effect. A caffeine dose 10 times higher — a dose reached by only die-hard caffeine consumers — caused an even bigger response in nerve cells in the CA2 region…

These strengthened synapses in the hippocampus may have a role in learning and memory, which makes sense because one of the main jobs of the hippocampus is to form spatial memories.

"Coffee delivers jolt deep in the brain"

photo: Anhydrous USP grade Caffeine, photographer: William Rafti, Wikimedia Commons