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Coffee delivers jolt deep in the brain

Caffeine strengthens electrical signals in rats’ hippocampus

Most caffeine addicts would tell you that coffee sharpens the mind. It turns out that in rodents, a single dose of caffeine does indeed strengthen brain cell connections in an underappreciated part of the brain, scientists report online November 20 in Nature Neuroscience.

A clearer idea of caffeine’s effect on the brain could allow scientists to take advantage of its stimulating effects and perhaps even alleviate some symptoms of brain disorders. “Caffeine is something people are very interested in,” says neuroscientist Susan Masino of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., who was not involved in the study.

So far, most of caffeine’s effects have been illuminated by studies using doses much higher than an average person’s morning cup of joe, says study coauthor Serena Dudek of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

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