Cinnamon may aid learning ability

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Cinnamon is a delicious addition to toast, coffee and breakfast rolls. Eating the tasty household spice also might improve learning ability, according to new study results published online in the July issue of the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology. The study by neurological scientists at Rush University Medical Center found that feeding cinnamon to laboratory mice determined to have poor learning ability made the mice better learners.

“This would be one of the safest and the easiest approaches to convert poor learners to good learners,” said Kalipada Pahan, the lead researcher of the study and Floyd A. Davis, professor of Neurology at Rush. Some people are born naturally good learners, some become good learners by effort, and some find it hard to learn new tasks even with effort. Little is known about the neurological processes that cause someone to be a poor learner and how to improve performance in poor learners. “Understanding brain mechanisms that lead to poor learning is important to developing effective strategies to improve memory and learning ability,” Pahan said.

Cinnamon role reversal:

The key to gaining that understanding lies in the hippocampus, a small part in the brain that generates, organises and stores memory. The mice in the study received oral feedings of ground cinnamon, which their bodies metabolised into sodium benzoate, a chemical used as a drug treatment for brain damage. When the sodium benzoate entered the mice’s brains, it stimulated the plasticity (ability to change) of hippocampal neurons. These changes in turn led to improved memory and learning among the mice. “We have successfully used cinnamon to reverse biochemical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of mice with poor learning,” Pahan said.

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