CHICAGO, July 22 (UPI) -- A daily dose of cinnamon could be the answer for struggling students to improve their ability to learn, according to recent experiments with mice.
Cinnamon treatments helped mice learn mazes faster in an experiment conducted by researchers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, suggesting certain forms of the spice may be useful in enhancing brain performance.
The study was funded by the VA, National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer's Association to find cinnamon's effects on the brain based on theories it could help in cognitive disorders, as well as enhance memory performance.
Most studies on cinnamon have focused on diabetes, but when researchers studied the brains of mice treated with it they found it stimulated hippocampal plasticity and strengthened the structural integrity of brain cells, improving function and possibly explaining its effects on the rodents' ability to learn.
"Individual differences in learning and educational performance is a global issue," Dr. Kalipada Pahan, a researcher at Rush University and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, said in a press release. "In many cases, we find two students of the same background studying in the same class, and one turns out to be a poor learner and does worse than the other academically. Now we need to find a way to test this approach in poor learners. If these results are replicated in poor-learning students, it would be a remarkable advance. At present, we are not using any other spice or natural substance."
For the study, published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, researchers treated poor-learning mice with cinnamon, finding that after just a month of treatment the mice were cutting the time it took to run a maze and find a hole less than half the time it took before treatment.
When comparing the effects of cinnamon in poor-learning mice receiving treatment to good-learning mice, they found that as time went on, treated mice closed the learning gap.
The researchers found that sodium benzoate, which the body produces after breaking down cinnamon, becomes an active compound entering the brain, changing the hippocampus and improving function.
In addition to planning more studies on cinnamon's ability to improve learning, the researchers are planning a clinical trial to test its benefits for patients with Alzheimer's disease.