NEW YORK — Is your kid finding it difficult to memorize lessons at school? Worry not, as feeding cinnamon — a delicious addition to toast, coffee and breakfast rolls — might help improve your child’s learning ability, says a study led by an Indian American researcher.
The findings showed that poor learning mice had improved memory and learning at a level found in good learning mice.
“This would be one of the safest and easiest approaches to convert poor learners to good learners,” said lead researcher Kalipada Pahan, a professor at Rush University in Chicago.
Some people are naturally good learners, some become good learners by effort, and some find it hard to learn new tasks even with effort.
“Understanding brain mechanisms that lead to poor learning is important to develop effective strategies to improve memory and learning ability,” Pahan added.
However, the study did not find any significant improvement among good learners who ate cinnamon.
“Individual difference in learning and educational performance is a global issue,” Pahan said. “We need to further test this approach in poor learners. If these results are replicated in poor learning students, it would be a remarkable advancement.”
The key to gaining that understanding lies in the hippocampus — a small part in the brain that generates, organizes and stores memory — the researchers said in the work published online in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.
Furthermore, the hippocampus of poor learners showed less CREB, a protein involved in memory and learning, and more GABRA5, a protein that generates tonic inhibitory conductance in the brain, than good learners.
The mice in the study were fed ground cinnamon, which their bodies metabolized into sodium benzoate, a chemical used as a drug treatment for brain damage.
When this sodium benzoate entered their brains, it showed an increase in CREB levels and a decrease in GABRA5 levels. This then stimulated the plasticity, the ability to change, of hippocampal neurons.
These changes in turn led to improved memory and learning among the mice, the researchers said.
“We have successfully used cinnamon to reverse biochemical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of mice with poor learning,” Pahan added.