Like no other organ of the human body, the brain is sensitive to what we consume. The effect on the brain of “mind-expanding” substances and so-called stimulants (such as alcohol) is a fertile field for study. Many dissertations and research papers, mostly unclear to a mere mortal coffee drinker, have been published on the effects of coffee (or caffeine) on the brain.
In this article we will summarize the main points of those researches. We will describe the effects of caffeine on brainwork: particularly on focus and memorization.
Caffeine as a passive brain stimulator
Caffeine is a mild stimulant to the nervous system. Whether caffeine’s influence on focus, memorization and productivity is positive or negative depends upon the quantity of caffeine ingested: the amount of coffee or soda that a person drinks.
Some researchers contend, however, that caffeine isn’t a brain stimulant but a brain instigator, “pushing” natural stimulants in the brain to work more actively (ref. Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine by Stephen Braun).
The degree to which caffeine affects the human brain depends (among other things) on a person’s age, height, weight. However, scientists have come to some common points which we’re going to touch upon.
Caffeine boosts alertness and thought processes
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has inferred a cause-and-effect-relationship between increased alertness and coffee drinking in reasonable quantities which is 75 mg of caffeine, or a cup of strong coffee.
A cup of coffee causes positive effect on the brain if you’re worn out by work: especially if you’re worn out by routine work. Nor can intellectual or creative workers who have to be on call at all times or who are obliged to work in a “flurry” mode, do without a cup of coffee.
Coffee is also indispensable in other cases:
sleep deficit (see the above chapter)
physical or intellectual work (especially at night time)
cold or severe weather conditions (here the warming effects of hot coffee are an additional benefit)
Reasonable amounts of coffee improve memory
Scientific studies have shown that memory and caffeine are interrelated; that caffeine has a cognition strengthening effect that solidifies memories and makes them harder to erase.
According to the research carried out at Johns Hopkins University, a dose of caffeine (equal to 200 mg of coffee) can have a beneficial effects on the brain and long-term memory: expanding its information-memorization or “clipboard” rate. During those tests, those who sped up the brain with caffeine were able to recognize more images than those who refrained.
Coffee stimulates the body and decreases weariness by blocking adenosine
Certain proteins called “adenosine receptors” generally cause sleepiness. Caffeine binds with adenosine, thus interfering with its chemical function in the brain cells, thus inhibiting sleepiness and providing a “lift”.
As has been noted above, caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, making the body forget about physical weariness. Taken in reasonable amounts it can help preserve one’s energy level throughout the day.
Can caffeine make you tired?
Regrettably, a converse effect is also possible. One problems is that active coffee drinkers get build up a coffee “tolerance. To compensate for the adenosine receptors temporarily frozen by caffeine, the brain creates more receptors, so you’ll need more and more caffeine to stifle sleepiness… and you can become dependent upon caffeine simply to keep you awake!
Coffee makes you feel good
Coffee can raise your mood and can also numb depression for a while. Studies show that the caffeine contained in coffee can increase the quantity and performance of serotonin.
A decreased level of serotonin in the brain is closely linked with a messed up mood. People who drink coffee in the morning feel friendlier and more joyful than healthy lifestyle proponents.
DIY. Coffee boosts your mood. Even in the least friendly surroundings a coffee-break is likely to light up an in-company atmosphere. Take coffee breaks at work (even if you are not very fond of your colleagues), have coffee chats with friends, brew a good espresso for yourself in in the morning.
Like it or not, drinking too much coffee can lead to decreased productivity, tension and anxiety due to hyperstimulation.
If you are worn out, caffeine can increase your stress. It all depends on how much caffeine you consume. If you usually drink two cups a day, you may experience negative effects after drinking four.
The effects of coffee are relatively controllable and short-term compared with addictive substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, and painkillers. It takes 5-12 hours to fully metabolize the coffee in your system. 7-12 days abstinence from coffee is enough for your brain to dispose of an oversupply of adenosine receptors.
See also: How long do the effects of caffeine last
Let’s sum up
Unlike other stimulants, caffeine is safe for the brain. In other publications on our website we’ll find out more about the positive effects of coffee on the human body. As for its negative effects, such as addiction, they are easily avoidable, as we have seen.
So take care, my friends, and drink coffee!