Coffee Quickens Elders’ Reactions
In a study presented Tuesday at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society's annual meeting, researchers set out to examine the effects of caffeine on a number of cognitive abilities in healthy, older adults. Their goal was to see what role caffeine could play in treating dementia.
Some current treatments for dementia focus on enhancing the ability to pay attention. Most people have come to believe that first (or fourth) cup of coffee in the morning allows them to concentrate better – but there has been little scientific study to back that up.
So researchers from the University of Bristol in England tested 38 healthy adults who ranged in age from 55 to 91. Each took a series of tests that measured different aspects of attention. Then the participants were asked to stop drinking caffeine for a week.
After that week, one group was given 1 cup of caffeinated coffee, while the other group was given decaffeinated coffee. They were then asked to perform the tests again. The next day, the drinks were switched.
The results were clear: Drinking the caffeinated coffee improved the participants' average reaction time. Investigators also found that the caffeine improved participants' accuracy on a test called the Stroop test, which measures skills such as planning and focusing.
The study team noted that these improvements were small, but for people with cognitive impairment even a slight improvement could make life more tolerable.