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Cinnamon May Boost Learning Ability

Struggling with on-the-job training or final exams? Cinnamon could potentially be helpful. New animal research has found that cinnamon may help learning ability in mice. Published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, the study used a Barnes maze, a standard elevated circular maze consisting of 20 holes, to identify the learning abilities of a group of mice. The mice were trained for two days and then tested to determine which mice had learned to navigate the maze to find the target hole (labeled as “good learners”), and which mice hadn’t learned to navigate the maze to find the target hole (labeled as “poor learners”). Researchers then fed all of the mice ground cinnamon for a month and studied how it affected their hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. They also studied changes to two proteins in their brains involved in memory and learning: CREB, which tends to be lower in poor learners than in good learners, and GABRA5, which tends to be higher in poor learners than in good learners. After retesting the cinnamon-fed mice, researchers found that:

  • In the poor learners, memory and learning improved to levels found in the good learners. However, memory and learning abilities did not improve significantly in the good learners.
  • The mice’s bodies metabolized a component of the cinnamon into sodium benzoate, a chemical which the study cited as a drug treatment for brain damage, and which is widely used as a food preservative. Upon entering their brains, the sodium benzoate increased CREB, decreased GABRA5, and stimulated the ability of their hippocampal neurons to change.

These findings suggest that cinnamon helped the mice with slower learning abilities come up to par with their faster-learning counterparts. Because it’s unclear how much cinnamon the mice were given, it’s relevance to humans is unclear. Only more research will tell if cinnamon affects humans in the same way. But, at the very least, cinnamon sprinkled on your morning toast or cappuccino is a delicious way to start your day of training or studying.

Source: Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology

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