This week in science – Feb 12

Mark Hendricks, Science & Technology Editor Ω

Caffeine, easing your fatigue and now helping your memory too

A new study has found that caffeine, such as that found in coffee, can help improve your memory for up to 24 hours. DaveOnFlickr/Flickr Commons

A new study has found that caffeine, such as that found in coffee, can help improve your memory for up to 24 hours. DaveOnFlickr/Flickr Commons

A new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University shows that caffeine helps improve your memory for up to 24 hours after it is consumed.

The researchers tested individuals on pattern separation, where the brain must determine whether a photo shown is similar or the same as a photo shown previously. The original set of photos was shown, the caffeine tablet was introduced to half the participants, and the second set of pictures was shown 24 hours later.

Pattern separation is a deeper level of memory retention than simply stating whether or not a picture is the same or different than one shown previously.

“If we used a standard recognition memory task without these tricky similar items, we would have found no effect of caffeine,” Michael Yassa, senior author on the paper said in a press release. “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.”

No link has been found between caffeine use and long-term memory.

Find out more: hub.jhu.edu/2014/01/12/caffeine-enhances-memory

Stem cells may hold the answer to reversing type-1 diabetes

A new study has found that stem cells are capable of reversing type-1 diabetes in mice in laboratory experiments. Angeladellatorre/Flickr Commons

A new study has found that stem cells are capable of reversing type-1 diabetes in mice in laboratory experiments. Angeladellatorre/Flickr Commons

New research from scientists at the Gladstone Institute in California has revealed that to those suffering from type-1 diabetes, stem cells may have the answer.

The study injected mice that had been genetically altered to have high glucose levels, mimicking the conditions of type-1 diabetes in humans, with stem cells. The stem cells replaced the damaged cells in the pancreas allowing the mice to produce insulin naturally. The scientists called these early-pancreatic like cells, PPLCs.

“Importantly, just one week post-transplant, the animals’ glucose levels started to decrease, gradually approaching normal levels,” Ke Li, lead author of the paper said to The Guardian. “And when we removed the transplanted cells, we saw an immediate glucose spike, revealing a direct link between the transplantation of the PPLCs and reduced hyperglycemia [high glucose level].”

Find out more: theguardian.com

Control can be a life or death matter

A 14-year study by researchers at the University of Rochester and Brandeis University has found that for those in low-income, low-education situations, the feeling of control in their life can have a large impact.

The study found that individuals in the aforementioned situations who did not feel in control of their lives were three times as likely to die early than those who were in a similar situation but felt in control of their lives.

Researchers hope that this study can help develop programs to help those in these situations feel more in control to live longer and healthier lives.

“Being uneducated and poor doesn’t mean you’re doomed,” Nicholas Turiano, lead author of the study, said in a press release. “Despite all of the studies showing people with less education are more likely to experience disease, disability, and premature death.”

Find out more: urmc.rochester.edu/news