Symposium on hydration and cognition at BPS Annual Conference

On April 18th 2012 Dr Caroline Edmonds convened a symposium entitled “The effects of hydration on cognition: theory and applications” at the BPS conference in London. This is the overall abstract for the symposium.

There is a well established literature that demonstrates that dehydration has negative effects on cognitive performance, including memory, attention and motor skills. However, until very recently, there has been little attention paid to the complementary research question concerning the positive effects of water consumption on cognitive performance. There is also very little research on potential underlying cognitive and physiological mechanisms.  This symposium combines these two current strands of research.

The first two presentations report findings concerning the positive effects of hydration on cognitive performance. Booth et al discuss acute effects of water supplementation on cognitive measures in children. They report positive effects of water consumption on both cognitive and motor tasks. Pawson et al report an applied study that looks at the effect of water consumption on exam performance, suggesting that those students who bring water into examinations perform better, and argue that this is not a result of the more able students being more likely to bring in water.

The final two presentations consider factors underlying the observed benefits of water consumption on cognition.  Edmonds et al present data that suggest that it is the water, rather than expectations about water, that underlie the performance improvements associated with water consumption. Finally, Smith et al report two brain imaging studies that suggest that dehydration is associated with reductions in ventricular volume.

This symposium presents a timely overview of current studies in the area of hydration and cognition, and serves to focus future research objectives.

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