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Your Brain On Caffeine | Inverse



I just was like, just too riled up. The majority of Americans are addicted to caffeine. But have you ever wondered what exactly is going on in your body as you desperately grab for that cup of coffee in the morning? I’m Shannon, and I’m a neuroscience Ph.D. candidate. And this is your brain on caffeine. Now before we get started, shall we? Caffeine is a bitter, white, crystalline purine, a methylxanthine alkaloid to be precise, which is naturally found in over 60 plants. Originating in Africa in the Arabian peninsula, humans have been consuming this stuff in the form of coffee, tea, and cocoa for thousands of years. An oldie but a goodie, caffeine is now considered the most consumed psychoactive drug worldwide, with around 87 percent of the US consuming it regularly. Whoa, yes, that’s right, I said psychoactive drug. More specifically, caffeine is a psychostimulant, literally meaning it stimulates the central nervous system.

Other drugs in this category: Cocaine, methamphetamine, and methylphenidate, aka, Ritalin. But don’t worry, caffeine is not considered a drug of abuse, like its other buddies, because caffeine is only a mild stimulant, and I’ll drink to that. As I sip this coffee, caffeine is binding to the adenosine receptors in my brain. Caffeine is the competitive antagonist for these receptors, as in they act as a sort of a bouncer in front of the receptor entryway, not allowing adenosine in. When adenosine normally enters this club, or receptor, these neurons signal sleepiness. So, as caffeine blocks the door of these receptors, it triggers an arousal effect, allowing you to stay out in that club an extra hour. This Americano isn’t just sitting in my brain though. It will have an effect on my entire body. As I consume more and more caffeine, I can definitely feel my movements get a bit more jittery, and my heart starts pounding significantly faster. Caffeine breaks… Caffeine blocks the breakdown of certain messengers in the body, mainly cAMP, which signals the production of two chemicals, norepinephrine in your heart, and epinephrine in your adrenal gland.

These two chemicals together are your body’s main drivers for the fight or flight response. That’s right, caffeine signals the same pathway that is triggered when you encounter a snake in the woods, or if you’re me, a particularly harsh Facebook commenter. I’m talking to you, Greg from Florida. This response will raise my heart rate, and increase my blood pressure to allow more oxygen to my brain and other vital tissues, so I can run away quickly from that snake, or reply with a lot of hot burns. ♪ Coffee drinking, coffee feels good ♪ ♪ I’m a coffee baby ♪ While I may feel ready to conquer the world with my surge of alertness and increased adrenaline, does coffee actually give me an edge in my work? Unfortunately, studies linking coffee to cognitive performance and skill enhancement have been largely inconclusive.

Some studies urge that doses of caffeine can improve memory retention and reaction time, while other studies show the exact opposite. Aside from the immediate effects caffeine is having on me right now, scientists believe that chronic caffeine use may have a number of neuroprotective properties. For example, caffeine may protect against the signs of aging, with lifetime coffee consumption being linked to increases in performance in memory function and attention in older women. Further, caffeine consumption may be linked to lowering the chance of developing Parkinson’s as well as Alzheimer’s. In summary, caffeine, like all of us, has some good and has some bad. I for one couldn’t live without the daily dose of my beloved psychostimulant. After my morning boost, I’m ready to tackle the day, or after this experiment, the week. See you all on Reddit at 3 a.m. I’ve never been on. It’s backslash, right? Forward slash? R slash.

 

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