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Br J Nutr. 2006 Feb;95(2):414-20.

The facilitative effects of glucose ingestion on memory retrieval in younger and older adults: is task difficulty or task domain critical?

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Department of Psychology, Glasgow Caledonian University, 70 Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow G4 0BA, UK.


The ingestion of a glucose-containing drink has been shown to improve cognitive performance, particularly memory functioning. However, it remains unclear as to the extent to which task domain and task difficulty moderate the glucose enhancement effect. The aim of this research was to determine whether boosts in performance are restricted to particular classes of memory (episodic v. semantic) or to tasks of considerable cognitive load. A repeated measures (25 g glucose v. saccharin), counterbalanced, double-blind design was used with younger and older adults. Participants performed a battery of episodic (e.g. paired associate learning) and semantic memory (e.g. category verification) tasks under low and high cognitive load. Electrophysiological measures (heart rate and galvanic skin response) of arousal and mental effort were also gathered. The results indicated that whilst glucose appeared to aid episodic remembering, cognitive load did not exaggerate the facilitative effect. For semantic memory, there was little evidence to suggest that glucose can boost semantic memory retrieval even when the load was manipulated. One exception was that glucose facilitated performance during the difficult category fluency task. Regardless, the present findings are consistent with the domain-specific account in which glucose acts primarily on the hippocampal region, which is known to support episodic memory. The possible contribution of the hippocampus in semantic memory processing is also discussed.

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