Can sugar improve your cognitive performance? Maybe

Can sugar improve your cognitive performance_ Maybe

In a recent study from the University of Warwick, researchers find that sugar improves memory in older adults and makes them more motivated to perform difficult tasks.

When faced with a cognitively demanding task, older people tend to disengage and withdraw effort.

They also prefer processing positive information first, but this preference disappears under difficult tasks. This is called a positive effect.

Providing glucose as an energy resource has been known to improve cognitive performance and reinstate older adults’ positivity preference.

In the study, the researchers examined whether glucose can help older adults to exert more effort under high difficulty conditions. If so, whether such an increase is accompanied by a change in a positive effect.

The researchers examined 53 young and 58 older adults. These participants consumed glucose or a placebo drink containing artificial sweetener.

They then completed a memory-search task at three levels of difficulty.

Their cognitive engagement in the task was measured through changes in heart rate (HR) and self-reported effort.

After each memory-search block, the people finished an implicit emotion-assessment task.

The researchers found that In both age groups, glucose produced increased HR (indicating higher task engagement) relative to placebo.

Moreover, in older but not in young adults, glucose also improved cognitive performance and increased positive effect.

The team also found that subjective effort did not differ between the older-glucose and older-placebo groups.

They concluded that short-term energy availability in the form of raised blood sugar levels could be an important factor in older adults’ motivation to perform a task at their highest capacity

The researchers also suggest that in older adults, glucose improves cognitive performance by promoting higher cognitive engagement while mitigating the subjective costs of effortful exertion.

They believed the results bring them a step closer to understanding what motivates older adults to exert effort and finding ways of increasing their willingness to try hard even if a task seems impossible to perform.

The study was Led by Ph.D. student Konstantinos Mantantzis, Professor Elizabeth Maylor and Dr. Friederike Schlaghecken in Warwick’s Department of Psychology.

The study is published in Psychology and Aging.

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