Alexander N Lawriw



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Caffeine is well-known for its ability to make a person feel more attentive, more alert, and less fatigued, but could this popular stimulant also help improve a person’s memory, as well? Prior research suggests that caffeine might be a cognitive enhancer with participants showing improved performance on short-term memory tasks such as the recall of word lists (Arnold et al., 1987; Barraclough & Foreman, 1994; Rogers & Dernoncourt, 1998; Ryan et al., 2002; Schmitt, 2001a, b). However, conflicting results using similar tasks have called these findings into question. On top of this, the overall body of research concerning caffeine and memory has tended to focus solely on relatively simple assessments of newly established episodic memory, leaving a glaring gap in the literature when it comes to other types of memory (e.g., semantic memory). The present research aims to fill this gap by studying caffeine’s potential effects on spatial working memory, the temporary storage, maintenance, and manipulation of spatial information. In the experiment, participants were asked to complete levels of varying difficulty within a computerized version of the popular puzzle game, Rush Hour, after consuming either a 200 mg caffeine pill or a placebo. Rush Hour requires the player to move a designated red ‘target’ car to the exit of a 6 x 6 grid. Blocking the exit are other cars that can only be moved horizontally or vertically depending on the direction they are facing. Participants must use the spatial information of the grid layout in order to complete the levels as efficiently as possible. We hypothesize that those participants given caffeine will complete these levels quicker and with fewer errors than those given a placebo. However, this increase in performance may be limited on more difficult levels due to increased workload and ensuing stress.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Honors Thesis

Primary Advisor

Susan T. Davis

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project

Caffeine Rush! Examining the Effects of Caffeine on Spatial Working Memory.