And they said hanging out in coffee bars was a waste of time…
Researchers at Boston’s Rush University have discovered that the spice cinnamon can affect the brain’s chemistry and actually improve the ability to remember and learn; at least in mice.
There are three broad groups of humans (and rodents) when it comes to the reaction to absorbing and retaining information; good learners, poor learners and those who can improve from poor to good with effort and application.
Research has already shown that innately poor learners have less of a particular protein, called CREB, in their hippocampus – the elongated ridges of the brain thought to be the centres of emotion and memory.
In particular it is thought that the hippocampus regulates the transition of short term memory into long term, more or less the definition of learning.
They also identified elevated levels of GABRA5 in poor learners, a protein receptor which inhibits the conduction of neurones.
The research team identified a group of mice who were poor learners – having demonstrated a poor level of information retention when faced with repeated trials through a maze.
When fed with cinnamon the mice improved their performance to match the good learners within a matter of days.
Once consumed the metabolism within the mouse’s body breaks cinnamon down into a number of compounds including the salt sodium benzoate. This compound is widely used industrially as a food preservative and has also been proven to slow or halt the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
It has the effect of increasing the level of CREB and reducing the amount of GABRA5 in the hippocampus and results in a marked improvement in memory and learning.
As a cheap and natural source of Sodium Benzoate the researchers hope that it may prove to be a widely available and effective counter measure against the onset of dementia generally and Parkinson’s in particular.
Meanwhile students up and down the country are frantically revising their coffee requirements.
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