The magic of morning coffee: a wake-up call for your brain

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Many people feel their day hasn’t started until they finish their cup of coffee. Coffee is known for making us feel more awake, hence it’s a popular morning beverage.

But what’s the secret?

Is it the caffeine or the act of drinking coffee that does the trick? Scientists from Portugal decided to find out.

“Many think coffee makes us alert,” said Prof Nuno Sousa from the University of Minho. He led the study. “Understanding how it does this could lead to many interesting discoveries.”

The Caffeine Experiment

The team chose people who drink at least one coffee a day. They were asked to not eat or drink any caffeine for three hours before the test. They were interviewed for basic information.

They also had two quick brain scans: one before and one half an hour after either drinking coffee or taking caffeine. During the scans, they were asked to relax and let their minds wander.

Scientists believed that coffee affects certain parts of our brain. It makes people ready to move from rest to work. The brain scans confirmed this. Both caffeine and coffee helped make people ready for tasks.

The Wake-Up Boost

But coffee did something extra. It also boosted parts of the brain that help with memory, control, and setting goals. This did not happen with just caffeine.

So, if you want to feel wide awake and ready to tackle the day, you need more than caffeine—you need the whole coffee experience.

“Coffee makes people more alert and ready to respond,” said Dr. Maria Picó-Pérez, one of the study’s authors.

“Some effects could be due to caffeine, so other caffeinated drinks might do the same. But some effects are unique to coffee, like its smell and taste, or the expectation of drinking it.”

It’s possible that even drinking coffee without caffeine could help. The study didn’t test this. It also didn’t test if the benefits of coffee are just because it stops withdrawal symptoms.

“The changes we saw were studied when people were at rest,” Sousa warned.

“We didn’t directly test their mental and cognitive processes. Also, people might respond to caffeine in different ways. We should look into that in the future.”

In simple words, coffee might be doing more than just waking us up. It could be boosting our brain’s readiness to work, and that’s a good enough reason to enjoy our morning cup of joe.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and blueberry supplements may prevent cognitive decline.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and Coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.

The study was published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

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