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How Does Caffeine Affect The Brain

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Caffeine Intake Is Associated With Reduced Cognitive Functions

How does caffeine affect the brain?

Dr. Anqi Qiu and colleagues from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the National University of Singapore investigated the effects of caffeine intake on cognitive functioning in almost 12,000 children ages 9 to 10 years who participate in the NIDA-funded Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study. This longitudinal cohort study examines potential relationships between substance use and neurocognition in U.S. children and adolescents. In their analysis, Dr. Qiu and colleagues included children for whom data on caffeine consumption were available, as well as results on seven tests assessing:

Figure. Caffeine Intake in Children Is Associated With Sociodemographic Variables and Reduced Cognitive Functioning See full text description at end of article.

  • Vocabulary comprehension.
  • Cognitive flexibility.
  • Processing speed.

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study was supported by NIDA grants DA041022, DA041028, DA041048, DA041089, DA041106, DA041117, DA041120, DA041134, DA041148, DA041156, DA041174, DA041123, and DA041147.

Implications Of This New Evidence

In Arria’s opinion, new evidence from developmental neuroscienceunderscores the inherent vulnerability of the developing brain topsychoactive substances. In addition, the balance of evidence in thescientific literature supports the argument that the levels of caffeinein today’s products, in the way those products are consumed, areassociated with increased risk-taking behaviors. Nor has the addition ofcaffeine to energy drinks at the levels present in most products beendemonstrated to be safe with regard to risk-taking behaviors inadolescents and young adults. Until evidence has been presented thatdemonstrates safety, actions to change current regulations on theseproducts are warranted to protect and promote the health of the publicin general and the health of adolescents in particular.

How Can I Tell If Caffeine Is Affecting My Sleep

Are you struggling with insomnia, headaches, or anxiety during the day? This could be a sign of caffeine overuse and dependence. Troubles during the night, like frequent awakenings, inability to fall asleep, and nighttime anxiety may also be a sign caffeine is interfering with your sleep . If you find yourself excessively sleepy during the day and caffeine isnt helping, it could be a sign you are sleep deprived from extended caffeine use. In that case, it may be time to put down the coffee and catch up on some much-needed rest.

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Energy Drinks: Potential Exacerbation Of Health

Several naturalistic and one experimental study have clearly demonstratedthat energy drink users are more likely to engage in risk-takingbehavior . Many forms of risk-taking behavior have beenstudied, including drug use, sexual risk taking, alcohol use, and themixing of energy drinks and alcohol. Arria also considers studies onanxiety and sleep quality important factors to consider when evaluatingadolescent behavior, even though they are not necessarily consideredrisk-taking behaviors. The one experimental study, , involved measuringrisk-taking behavior in a laboratory setting using an analog measurecalled BART .

Arria noted that the frequency of energy drink use among the studies shewas able to locate that specifically focused on risk-taking behaviorwere studies on college students and that the prevalence estimates ofenergy drink consumption among that age group are much higher than wasalluded to earlier during the workshop discussion. Recent studies areshowing prevalence estimates of up to 83 percent in the past year and 57percent in the past week . Her research team’s data have shown a 65 percent annualincrease in prevalence of use between the second and third years ofcollege. She suggested that snapshot measures of 2-day or 7-dayfrequency cannot capture past year or past month use and identified thelack of valid assessment methods for energy drink consumption as animportant data gap.

Neurodevelopmental Influences On Risk

Caffeine is a part of our every day life. But is it good ...

Scientists have learned a great deal during the past 20 years, especiallythe past 10 years, about the human brain and how the brain undergoesvery complex and functional changes during the adolescent years and intothe early 20s .These changes partially explain why adolescents are more likely thanolder individuals to engage in risk-taking behavior and perhaps lesslikely to fully recognize the consequences of such behavior. Moreover,adolescents appear to be more susceptible to the rewarding properties ofsubstances. The evidence also helps to explain the long-establishedrobust finding that early use of substances increases the risk ofaddiction in adulthood. In short, Arria explained, there is an inherentvulnerability of the developing brain to psychoactive substances.

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How Does Caffeine Affect Sleep

The most common side effect of caffeine is loss of sleep, called sleep deprivation. The part of your brain that controls your sleep-wake cycle your biological clock is the most sensitive to caffeine. One to three cups of coffee may be enough to affect your sleep. The effects usually require more than 200 milligrams of caffeine. You may have trouble falling asleep, have fewer hours of sleep, and have a less deep and restful sleep, called slow-wave sleep.

Sleep deprivation may cause side effects like daytime sleepiness and problems with concentration or memory, called brain fog. These symptoms may cause you to drink even more coffee to stay awake and alert, making it harder to recover your lost sleep, leading to a vicious cycle.

How long the effects of caffeine last vary from person to person depending on how sensitive they are to caffeine. Caffeine has a half-life of about three to seven hours. Half-life is the time that half of the caffeines effect has worn off by being removed from your system. For most people the effects of caffeine last about six hours.

Caffeine Affects The Frontal Lobes In The Brain

The team of Dr. Florian Koppelstaetter, from the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria, presented a study on the subject. In this study, they state that caffeine activates the frontal lobes of the brain. This area regulates processes such as attention and short-term memory.

Other studies point out that another way that caffeine can affect the brain is by helping to fix memories more easily. However, this effect is only relevant in those who dont consume coffee too frequently.

Caffeine also increases the capacity to concentrate, especially when were feeling fatigued. However, the available information indicates that when consumed in excess, it reduces performance in all areas and generates a state of great nervousness.

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Digestive And Excretory Systems

Caffeine increases the amount of acid in your stomach and may cause heartburn or upset stomach. Extra caffeine doesnt get stored in your body either. Its processed in the liver and exits through your urine. This is why you might have an increase in urination shortly after having caffeine.

If you have experience stomach problems, like acid reflux or ulcers, ask your doctor if its okay for you to have caffeine.

What About The Caffeine

How coffee affects your brain | Is coffee bad for your brain? | how does caffeine affect the brain

Caffeine interacts with the brain primarily by blocking a neurotransmitter called adenosine. If youre already tuning out THATS WHAT THE ADENOSINE WANTS! It builds up in your brain all day long, and when it gets to a tipping point, you get sleepy. Caffeines molecule fits into the same receptors as adenosine and blocks it from telling your brain to be sleepy. When this happens, you experience it as:

  • Increased alertness
  • Increased learning capacity
  • Quicker reaction time

Additionally, caffeine prevents your brain from reabsorbing dopamine, leading to higher levels overall. Dopamine is the feel-good of brain chemistry, and most drugs revolve around you getting more of it to feel better. This dopamine increase is what causes caffeine to be addictive for some people.

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The Difference A Red Bull Can Make

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that school-aged children get at least 10 hours of shut-eye a night.

A study in the journal Nutrition Research shows that every 10 milligrams of caffeine a 13-year-old boy drinks per day increases his chances of getting less than 8.5 hours of sleep by 12 percent.

Eight ounces of the typical commercial energy drinksuch as Red Bull or Monstercontains 76 to 80 milligrams of caffeine, a 12-ounce Mountain Dew has 55 milligrams, and a two-ounce 5-Hour Energy drink contains 207 milligrams, according to the Mayo Clinic.

All parents know that their children dont sleep well if theyre jacked up on caffeine. But a larger concern is that the sleep they miss out on could keep them from reaching their academic potential.

The Pros And Cons Of Caffeine

So, if you choose to continue your morning routine of drinking coffee there are few things for you to consider.

Heres the thing: There are caffeine benefits but there are also some caffeine issues you want to keep your eye on.

The Good

Here are some benefits of including responsible caffeine intake in your daily routine.

  • It can increase your mood.
  • It can make you feel more alert and awake.
  • It can help boost memory function.
  • It may increase your attention span and focus.
  • It may make over-the-counter medications, like Tylenol and aspirin, work faster.
  • It can enhance your performance.

The Bad

Drinking caffeine in any amount isnt always good for you, here are some negatives of caffeine consumption.

  • Some get heartburn when consuming caffeine.
  • Fatigue is common as an effect after caffeine leaves your system.
  • Digestive issues are common with caffeine consumption, often looked at as normal when people joke about their morning after-coffee bathroom break.
  • Caffeine has been shown to raise blood pressure because of its stimulatory effect on the nervous system which can lead to a higher risk of strokes and heart attacks.
  • Insomnia and restlessness are common. It takes about 5-6 hours for just half of the caffeines effects to dissipate .
  • Caffeine is known it increase alertness, rapid heart rate, and anxiety – meaning that it can stress you out and make you irritable.

The Ugly:

  • Caffeine addiction is a real thing that we need to be aware of.

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Cellular Basis Of Action

The diverse effects of methylxanthines are probably attributable to the following 3 basic cellular actions, listed in order of increasing importance:

  • Translocations of intracellular calcium

  • Increasing accumulation of cyclic nucleotides

  • Adenosine receptor blockade

The ability of methylxanthines to inhibit cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases is often cited to explain their therapeutic effects however, strong evidence for this theory is lacking. Plasma caffeine concentrations that raise blood pressure are below the threshold for phosphodiesterase inhibition. Thus, phosphodiesterase inhibition is probably not important to the therapeutic effects of methylxanthines.

At high concentrations , caffeine interferes with the uptake and storage of calcium by the sarcoplasmic reticulum in striated muscles. This action can account for the observations that such concentrations of caffeine increase the strength and duration of contractions in both skeletal and cardiac muscles. Similar actions can enhance secretion in certain tissues. However, they are unlikely to play an important role at therapeutic concentrations.

Several other caffeine actions that have received relatively little attention to date might prove to be important for certain methylxanthine effects. These include their potentiation of inhibitors of prostaglandin synthesis and the possibility that methylxanthines reduce the uptake or metabolism of catecholamines in nonneuronal tissues.

Active Ingredients In Coffee

How does caffeine affect the brain

Coffee contains hundreds of bioactive compounds that contribute to its potentially powerful health benefits.

Many of these compounds are antioxidants, which fight the damage caused by harmful free radicals in your cells.

Here are coffees most important active ingredients :

  • Caffeine. The main active ingredient in coffee, caffeine stimulates the central nervous system.
  • Chlorogenic acids. These polyphenol antioxidants may benefit some biological pathways, such as blood sugar metabolism and high blood pressure.
  • Cafestol and kahweol. Present in coffees natural oil, these compounds are found in high amounts in unfiltered coffee.
  • Trigonelline. This alkaloid compound is unstable at high heat, and during roasting it forms nicotinic acid, also known as niacin .

However, the amounts of these substances in a cup of coffee may vary.


Coffee can be a healthy beverage, packed with hundreds of biologically active compounds, including caffeine, chlorogenic acid, trigonelline, cafestol, and kahweol.

Caffeine affects the central nervous system in several ways.

The effects are mainly believed to stem from the way caffeine interacts with adenosine receptors .

Adenosine is a neurotransmitter in your brain that promotes sleep.

Neurons in your brain have specific receptors that adenosine can attach to. When it binds to those receptors, it inhibits the tendency of neurons to fire. This slows neural activity.

Caffeine promotes CNS stimulation, making you feel alert.

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One Recent Review Of Studies Found That Caffeine May Improve Heart Function

Many researchers have assumed that caffeine could potentially cause trouble for people with heart problems like arrhythmias .

But a recent review of research found this didn’t seem to be the case. Looking at a number of studies with more than 330,000 participants, researchers found that irregular heartbeat frequency decreased between 6 and 13% in regular coffee drinkers. That same review found that people who’d had a heart attack who consumed caffeine actually had an improved heart rate and fewer irregular heartbeat issues.

The researchers think that by blocking adenosine, caffeine may reduce heart risks, since adenosine triggers irregular heartbeats.

Childhood Caffeine Exposure May Negatively Affect Cognitive Functioning

This study found that:

  • In children ages 9 to 10 years, greater caffeine intake was associated with reductions in several measures of cognitive functioning.
  • For most assessed cognitive functions, this negative correlation remained after controlling for variables such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, and sleep.

Many adolescents and young children regularly drink beverages that contain caffeine. In the United States, children ages 2 to 12 years consume an average of 37 mg of caffeine per day. In adults, consumption of less than 400 mg of caffeine per dayroughly the amount found in 4 cups of coffee, 10 cans of cola, or 2 energy shot drinksis not thought to present any health risks and may provide benefits such as improved concentration, alertness, or even athletic performance. Higher doses, however, can adversely affect mood, sleep, and physical and cognitive performance. Children have lower tolerance for caffeine than adults, making their access to caffeinated beverages such as cola and energy drinks particularly concerning. A new study supports these concerns, demonstrating that caffeine consumption during childhood can impede childrens cognitive function.

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Evidence On The Effects Of Caffeine In Children Andadolescents

When Temple and her colleagues first starting studying the effects ofcaffeine in children and adolescents, about 7 years ago, so littleresearch had been conducted that she felt as though they were startingfrom scratch. Her research has focused on four main areas: reinforcingproperties of caffeine, cardiovascular responses to caffeine, subjectiveeffects of caffeine, and cognitive effects of caffeine. She discussedeach in turn.

Reinforcing Properties of Caffeine

Curious about why manufacturers would add caffeine to soda, Templeand her team first conducted studies on the reinforcing propertiesof caffeine. The claim from beverage manufacturers is that caffeineis added to enhance flavor. But caffeine has an extremely bitterflavor, and at the levels of caffeine added to sodas, studies haveshown that few people can taste the difference between caffeinatedand noncaffeinated soda. Temple and her colleagues approached thiswork with the hypothesis that caffeine is added not just to increasethe liking of soda but also to increase the reinforcing propertiesof soda. Specifically, she and her research team designed a studyaimed at testing whether caffeinated soda becomes reinforcing overtime .

Results from operant response test for caffeinatedsoda. NOTES: Baseline results in the left graph and resultsobtained after exposure in the right graph. See text fordetailed explanation. SOURCE: Temple et al.,2009.

Cardiovascular Response to Caffeine

Subjective Effects of Caffeine

Other Mechanisms Of Caffeine Psychostimulant Effects

How Does Caffeine Affect the Brain?

In Ferré’s opinion, scientists have reached a high level ofunderstanding of at least one mechanism of action of caffeine: theA2A-D2 antagonistic interaction mediated by the A2A-D2 receptorheteromer localized in the indirect MSN. The mechanism explains not onlythe motor-depressant effects of A2A receptor agonists but also themotoractivating effects of caffeine and other A2A receptor antagonists. On the basis of this knowledge, researchers have beentesting the efficacy of A2A receptor antagonists in the treatment ofParkinson’s disease.

Not all caffeine effects are mediated by A2A, according to Ferré.Some motor effects are mediated by the A1 receptor .Ferré did not elaborate, but he did remark that the same methodswere used to identify an antagonistic A1-D1 receptor interaction in thedirect MSN that also mediates the postsynaptic effects of caffeine.

In addition to postsynaptic mechanisms, presynaptic mechanism could alsobe involved in caffeine’s locomotor-activating effects. Althoughno evidence indicates that caffeine releases dopamine like cocaine andamphetamine do, showed that it does release dopamine in the veryventral part of the striatum, in an area called the shell of the nucleusaccumbens, by acting on adenosine A1 receptors localized inglutamatergic and dopamatergic terminals.

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Reason : Coffee Depletes The Body Of Nutrients

When we drink coffee, we experience nutrient depletion for some of our key micronutrients. Coffee is acidic in our body, and as a result we need to buffer that acidity. To do so, the body uses minerals like magnesium and calcium. Because coffee is a diuretic, it causes calcium and water-soluble vitamins to be lost in the urine. This includes our much-loved and super-supportive B-vitamins, which are essential for energy production. When were burnt out, we dont want to be losing these. It also includes vitamin C, which is essential for cortisol production and is an antioxidant.

Coffee also inhibits the absorption of minerals like iron and magnesium. Magnesium is especially important, as its involved in over 300 reactions in the body and plays a large role in our nervous system. Our nervous system is largely affected by adrenal fatigue. It can also inhibit vitamin D absorption, a vitamin that is very important for our immune system and bone health.

Its important to be mindful of these interactions and consume nutrient-dense foods something thats important to do for adrenal fatigue recovery. To make things easier on your body as a whole, ditch the coffee while youre recovering.

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