Plain caffeine cannot replace coffee in giving brain ‘special’ boost: Study

Plain caffeine cannot replace coffee in giving brain 'special' boost: Study

Representative image for coffee. Photo: Formatoriginal / Shutterstock San Francisco: A new study has revealed that the energising effect that individuals experience from consuming a cup of coffee cannot be replicated solely by consuming plain caffeine.

According to the study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, plain caffeine only partially reproduced the effects of drinking a cup of coffee, reports The Independent.

Aside from boosting alertness in the brain, coffee also affects working memory and goal-directed behaviour in the brain.


“There is a common expectation that coffee increases alertness and psychomotor functioning. When you get to understand better the mechanisms underlying a biological phenomenon, you open pathways for exploring the factors that may modulate it and even the potential benefits of that mechanism,” study co-author Nuno Sousa explained.

Before the study, participants who drank at least one cup of coffee per day were asked to refrain from eating or drinking caffeinated beverages for three hours. Participants then underwent two brief MRI brain scans — one before and one after drinking either caffeine or a standardised cup of coffee — to collect social and demographic data.

According to researchers, drinking both coffee and caffeine use reduced neuronal connection in the brain’s default mode network, which is involved in introspection and self-reflection processes.

Researchers said this shift could indicate that people are more prepared to transition from resting to working on tasks.

However, they mentioned that drinking coffee may also improve connectivity in the brain’s more advanced nerve network that controls vision, as well as other areas involved in working memory, cognitive control, and goal-directed behaviour.

However, such effects were not found when participants only took caffeine, the study showed.

“Acute coffee consumption decreased the functional connectivity between brain regions of the default mode network, a network that is associated with self-referential processes when participants are at rest,” study co-author Maria Picó-Pérez said.

“The subjects were more ready for action and alert to external stimuli after having coffee,” she added.

Additionally, the new findings suggested that even though caffeinated drinks share some of the same effects as coffee, there are still some benefits associated with drinking coffee, including the smell and taste of that drink, as well as the psychological expectations associated with drinking that drink.


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