The findings of several studies presented at this week's annual meeting of the British Psychological Society in Blackpool suggest that a shot of glucose, ginseng or Spanish sage can boost a person's memory and help them retain information.
One study, conducted at Lancaster University and the University of Western Australia, involved 60 healthy volunteers who had drinks containing either glucose or a placebo. They were shown a list of 20 words, which they were asked to recall half an hour later and again the next day. Researchers found that volunteers given glucose had the best memory performance - they could remember 15 words compared to 10 in the control group.
Significantly, researchers said it did not matter whether participants took the glucose just before or just after they viewed the list - the improvements were almost the same. Researcher Dr Sandra Snram-Lea, from Lancaster University, told delegates, "When we have a list of things to remember, our brain stores these memories during, and also after, we are exposed to the information. "The provision of a glucose drink before or shortly after a learning task seems to improve the way that the memories are subsequently formed." Dr Snram-Lea suggests that students in particular may benefit from taking glucose before or shortly after their lectures and during revision.
In a separate study, Dr David Kennedy and colleagues from the University of Northumbria found that ginseng affects electrical activity in such a way that suggests taking ginseng may improve mental ability, while other research showed that Spanish sage affects both mood and cognition in a group of healthy young adults.
Another study suggests that many people may already be helping their memory function without realizing. The simple action of chewing gum appears to significantly improve people's performance on a range of memory tests, say researchers. However, not everything natural is good for the gray matter. Researchers also found that lavender lives up to its reputation as a sedative, causing volunteers to do poorly in a number of tests of attention and memory.
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