Caffeine helps your memory

Caffeine is the energy boost of choice for millions who consume it to wake up or stay up. Now, UC Irvine neurobiologist Michael Yassa has found another use for the stimulant: memory enhancer.

Michael Yassa, assistant professor of neurobiology & behavior, and his team of scientists found that caffeine has a positive effect on long-term memory in humans.

“We’ve always known that caffeine has cognitive enhancing effects, but its particular effects on strengthening memories and making them resistant to forgetting has never been examined in detail in humans,” Yassa said. “We report for the first time a specific effect of caffeine on reducing forgetting over 24 hours.”

The researchers conducted a double-blind trial in which participants who did not regularly eat or drink caffeinated products received either a placebo or a 200 milligrams caffeine tablet five minutes after studying a series of images. Saliva samples were taken from the participants before ingesting caffeine, and one, three and 24 hours afterwards to check for increased caffeine levels.

The next day, both groups were tested on their ability to recognize images from the previous day’s study session. On the test, some of the visuals were the same as from the day before, some were new additions and some were similar but not the same as the items previously viewed. Researchers say more participants in the caffeine group were able to correctly identify the new images as “similar” to previously viewed images versus erroneously citing them as the same.

The brain’s ability to recognize the difference between two similar but not identical items, called pattern separation, reflects a deeper level of memory retention, the researchers said.

“If we used a standard recognition memory task without these tricky similar items, we would have found no effect of caffeine,” Yassa said. “However, using these items requires the brain to make a more difficult discrimination – what we call pattern separation, which seems to be the process that is enhanced by caffeine in our case.”

[Image via yourcoffeeguru]

Read the rest of the most discussed UC research of 2014 →


Could Cosmic Rays Threaten Mars Missions?

Thousands of people have volunteered for a potential mission to Mars, but if any of them end up making the trip, they might lose a few brain cells along the way.

New research out of UC Irvine finds that exposure to cosmic rays during the long journey, expected to take about six to eight months, can damage the brain and lead to dementia-like impairment.

This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two- to three-year round trip to Mars,” Charles Limoli explained. Limoli is a professor of radiation oncology at the UC Irvine School of Medicine. 

“Performance decrements, memory deficits and loss of awareness and focus during spaceflight may affect mission-critical activities, and exposure to these particles may have long-term adverse consequences to cognition throughout life.”

What can be done to protect astronauts speeding off to the red planet?

As a partial solution, Limoli said, spacecraft could be designed to include areas of increased shielding, such as those used for rest and sleep. But the brain-dulling particles would still get on board. 

“There is really no escaping them.”

Read more about the study

GIFS via Mars Brain Animation


I don’t know if any of you have heard, but the University of California, Irvine’s associated student body, otherwise known as ASUCI, has made a vote to remove all national flags from the lobby room of the ASUCI organization in order to make the room seem more inclusive. This includes the American flag.

Before you go off on your rant about how UCI has developed an ilk of Marxists and that us Anteaters should be shipped off to the Middle East, I want to provide some context about the situation.

A legislative council of about 12 students as elected into their positions by the student body. This council was the one behind vote. Six students voted that all flags should be taken down, four students voted that all flags should stay up, and two obstained. 

The vote was conducted under the primary reasoning that the lobby room should be about the associated student body and the decisions that are made there in order to benefit the lives of the 28,000 students, 1,100 faculty, and 9,400 staff that are a part of the campus everyday. The decision was meant to bring a sense of unity and professionalism to the lobby room. When the student members of ASUCI walked into that room they were ASUCI members and Anteaters. The thought process was that the flags would remove this sense of unity and togetherness from the group.

The vote was made to bring the students in ASUCI together. 

The vote was made to bring the students in ASUCI together. 

I repeated that just in case you didn’t read it the first time.

Now, sources like Fox News will lead you to believe that all the students at UCI made the decision to remove only the American flag from every corner of the campus with their misleading title.

This is not true.

The legislative council voted to remove ALL national flags from one room of one building out of a 1,474 acre campus. 

Sources like Fox News will lead our very own ASUCI president to single out the six students that voted in favor of removing the flags and try to blame the entire scandal on them to help the other 27,994 students on campus.

The needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few, right? What’s six students and their social well-being and standing versus the other 27,994 students? I’m sure those six students will be fine. (That’s sarcasm if you didn’t catch it.)

Fox News will follow up on the social lynching of these six students, calling them “unAmerican.”

That’s real mature Todd Starnes. Washington must be smiling down upon you from white, patriotic Heaven.

But Fox News and their clearly professional writer Starnes are not the only ones to blame for the now sullied image of UCI and its Anteaters.

I didn’t know that it was okay to issue death threats to students.

Deporting seems to be a viable solution, as well.

These are the adults that we look up to.

These are the adults that we are supposed to feel safe around.

Yet, they tell us to be shipped back to our respective nations, that we should be bombed because of our decision.

I understand that these commenters do not represent a majority of the American population, but it hurts all the same to hear fellow American citizens, voice their desire for me and my peers to be deported or slaughtered. And I say fellow because I am an American citizen. I was born in this country so that I could receive an education, get a well-paying job, and take care of my parents who did not have the same opportunity that I did.

Is that wrong?

Is that me exhibiting any support of communism?

Is it unAmerican to want to take care of my family?

I’m not trying to get you to rally in protest against Fox News, nor am I trying to get you to reply to these commenters that have voice their skewed opinions online.

All I’m trying to do is show the other side of the story and stop people from pointing the finger at the six students that were only trying to help the school and its students.

I don’t have that much school spirit in UCI, because it wasn’t my first choice for higher education. But nonetheless, I’m an Anteater. It paints me to see that from this decision and the poor press surrounding it, I won’t be able to say that I’m a student of UCI for a long time.

If it interests you, look into the story and form your own opinon.

Here are the links to articles covering the flag ban:

While I pretty much only dance at wedding receptions, it’s always been a dream of mine to be able to really cut a rug; however, where to begin? Enter Thomas E. Parson’s “Popular Ballrooms Dances for all.” A guide to help anyone learn how to dance. Sounds great, right? Maybe it’s my 21st century mind or maybe I’m just spatially challenged, but I’d have a real hard time learning how to dance by looking at those static little feet and arrow. Thankfully, we can now make those feet step lively and show us how to get our Foxtrot going.


Lack of sleep contributes to false memories

If coffee improves memory, lack of sleep seems to erode it. UC Irvine researchers showed study participants a series of images depicting a burglary in progress and asked them to remember key details 24 hours later. Participants who’d had a good night’s sleep had better recall of the events, while those who had pulled all-nighters or slept for just a few hours were more likely to misremember and even invent details.

“Sometimes memory distortions are trivial and don’t matter, but there are contexts (e.g., eyewitnesses in court, clinicians making medical decisions) where errors have serious consequences, so we need to be concerned about factors that make memory less reliable, and more vulnerable to distortion,” said lead researcher Steven Frenda, who specializes in human memory at the department of Psychology and Social Behavior at UC Irvine.

The most talked about UC research from 2014 →

We live in a world where college admissions can either make or break us. There is no in between. Isn’t it sad? How we are raised solely for this moment? Years of education, all for this moment of disappointment. The moment we get rejected, there are no words that can console the heartache we feel. My question is: how did we come to create such a terrible system? How can we just accept it when students cry their heart and soul after reading a simple, “We regret to inform you,” followed by sentences about how competitive admissions are this year and how each application is carefully read and how there’s always spring quarter. Then they start going back and wondering what it is they possibly did wrong. Was it the topic? Grammar? A misunderstanding? To those who don’t understand, they’ll think it’s because those rejected students weren’t up to par with the “standards”. I’ll only say this: how can you tell a student who has poured their aspirations and struggles and life into a college application that they just weren’t good enough to be accepted into ABC college and that student XYZ is much more superior? It’s complete bullshit to me. How can we accept such generic phrases after writing so passionately that our blood meddled with the words of our personal statements? I hate this system of test scores and GPAs. There’s more to the fucking world than numbers. There’s more beyond a damn essay that probably only gets skimmed over. How can college admissions officers look for qualified students based on such limited information that may even be complete fabrications. Tell me how. How can we accept that students are tearing themselves apart over a rejection letter? Tell me why. Why is it deemed “normal” that I have friends bawling because of an education system that builds them up only to throw them overboard?

Chemists find a way to unboil eggs

It has often been said that you can’t unscramble an egg. But you might be able to unboil one.

When you boil an egg, the heat causes the proteins inside the egg white to tangle and clump together, solidifying it. New research published in ChemBioChem by scientists at UC Irvine shows how they can essentially reverse the clumping process by adding chemicals to a cooked egg.

“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” UCI biochemist Gregory Weisssaid in a statement. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold.”

But unboiling eggs isn’t the main focus for the researchers. “The real problem is there are lots of cases of gummy proteins that you spend way too much time scraping off your test tubes, and you want some means of recovering that material,” Weiss said.

The innovation could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry.

Read more