Can coffee improve mental function?

by Rusky
Tags: coffee, function, improve, mental
Rusky is offline
Jun19-12, 01:21 PM
P: 2
I find whenever I drink coffee that has a bit too much caffeine in it I become rather jittery and full of energy, also my heart speeds up. There isn't anything new and exciting about that.

What I do have a question about is that fact that minutes after I drink it and maybe for the next hour or two I find myself thinking better, clearer and faster. This is the same effect I feel when I take adderall to study. Without it my brain feels slow, sluggish and I have a hard time remembering things.

To me it almost feels like my heart is pumping faster and pushing more blood to my brain and thus it works in overtime. I would give anything to always feel like this or even 1/2 the level on a daily basis without having to take any sort of medication or stimulation like caffeine.

To be honest I don't even know where to start with this. Is this just part of my ADD and there's nothing I can do about it? Or is there another medical condition that could cause this? Pretty much I want to find out if anyone understands what the the hell I'm talking about (lol) and can steer me in any sort of direction.

Thanks in advance!
Phys.Org News Partner Medical research news on
New study finds 2.5 million basketball injuries to high school athletes in six seasons
Cancer patients need anxiety, depression screening
Neuroscientists discover brain circuits involved in emotion
phyzguy is offline
Jun19-12, 01:52 PM
P: 2,070
I would say for most of us, yes, caffeine improves mental function. Why do you think so many people use it?
Pythagorean is offline
Jun19-12, 02:14 PM
PF Gold
Pythagorean's Avatar
P: 4,207
Quote Quote by phyzguy View Post
I would say for most of us, yes, caffeine improves mental function. Why do you think so many people use it?
Now hold on! First off, it's addictive! That's why so many people use it.

Second off, it's an adenosine antagonist. It basically takes your foot off the break and restrains your foot so that it's harder to break (to use the gas/break analogy of a biological system).

As opposed to most people's view, that caffeine gives them gas, it only removes a break. And what this does is interfere with a neural control system that's probably breaking for a reason.

Now, if you're addicted to something, it's going to be uncomfortable for you to be away form it; it's like wearing a tack in your shoe all day. Of course removing the tack form your shoe improves mental function! But as long as you maintain the addiction, you keep putting the tack back.

That being said, there's probably some trade-offs and moderation involved. Caffeine may improve particular aspects of cognitive function while causing a deficit in others. And you may just happen to have the kind of job where that configuration works, especially if you use moderation and timing. But too much caffeine (and that threshold is different for different people) will just cause the physical symptoms of anxiety and won't make careful or coordinated work very easy.

The OP doesn't sound neurotypical, so the above doesn't necessarily apply. Though aderall is often associated with an amphetamine addiction and sating addictions always leads to moments of cognitive clarity, which is independent of aderall's other mental-enhancing effects. I noticed the same moment right after smoking a cigarette when I used to smoke (nicotine is also correlated with cognitive effects).

M Quack
M Quack is offline
Jun19-12, 03:56 PM
P: 640

Can coffee improve mental function?

"Science is the transformation of caffeine into publications."
No mention of any mental functions.

As far as I can tell caffeine has absolutely no effect on mental functions.

You should do a blind test. Have a room or lab mate randomly exchange normal and decaf. Note down what "effect" you feel, and compare with your mates notes after a month or so.
Rusky is offline
Jun19-12, 04:03 PM
P: 2
I should note that I never drink coffee, once a month is usually my max. Also caffeine never previously had any effect on me.

I don't have any mental conditions, that I know of, but I'd like to find out if there are any conditions that could be slowing my mind down and somehow caffeine is removing the breaks (i like your analogy Pythagorean).

M Quack - that's an interesting test but as I don't drink coffee I don't have a machine at home nor does my office have decalf so it would take some effort to do this experiment.

I'll be honest I haven't read the forum rules so I don't know if discussing illegal drugs is allowed but there would be some info that I'd add.
phyzguy is offline
Jun19-12, 04:52 PM
P: 2,070
It's nonsense to say that caffeine has no effect on cognitive function. The positive impact is well documented. Here are the abstracts of three peer-reviewed studies. There are many more.


Cognitive and mood improvements of caffeine in habitual consumers and habitual non-consumers of caffeine.
Haskell CF, Kennedy DO, Wesnes KA, Scholey AB.

Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit, Division of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST, UK.

The cognitive and mood effects of caffeine are well documented. However, the majority of studies in this area involve caffeine-deprived, habitual caffeine users. It is therefore unclear whether any beneficial findings are due to the positive effects of caffeine or to the alleviation of caffeine withdrawal.

The present placebo-controlled, double-blind, balanced crossover study investigated the acute cognitive and mood effects of caffeine in habitual users and habitual non-users of caffeine.

Following overnight caffeine withdrawal, 24 habitual caffeine consumers (mean=217 mg/day) and 24 habitual non-consumers (20 mg/day) received a 150 ml drink containing either 75 or 150 mg of caffeine or a matching placebo, at intervals of > or =48 h. Cognitive and mood assessments were undertaken at baseline and 30 min post-drink. These included the Cognitive Drug Research computerised test battery, two serial subtraction tasks, a sentence verification task and subjective visual analogue mood scales.

There were no baseline differences between the groups' mood or performance. Following caffeine, there were significant improvements in simple reaction time, digit vigilance reaction time, numeric working memory reaction time and sentence verification accuracy, irrespective of group. Self-rated mental fatigue was reduced and ratings of alertness were significantly improved by caffeine independent of group. There were also group effects for rapid visual information processing false alarms and spatial memory accuracy with habitual consumers outperforming non-consumers. There was a single significant interaction of group and treatment effects on jittery ratings. Separate analyses of each groups' responses to caffeine revealed overlapping but differential responses to caffeine. Caffeine tended to benefit consumers' mood more while improving performance more in the non-consumers.

These results do not support a withdrawal alleviation model. Differences in the patterns of responses to caffeine by habitual consumers and habitual non-consumers may go some way to explaining why some individuals become caffeine consumers.


Effects of caffeine and glucose, alone and combined, on cognitive performance.
Adan A, Serra-Grabulosa JM.

Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

To study the effects of consuming caffeine and glucose, alone and combined, on cognitive performance.

Seventy-two healthy subjects (36 women; age range 18-25) were tested early in the morning, having fasted overnight. Using a double-blind, randomised design, subjects received one of the following beverages: water (150 ml); water plus 75 mg of caffeine; water plus 75 g of glucose; water plus and 75 mg of caffeine and 75 g of glucose. Attention, manual dexterity, visuo-spatial and frontal functions, memory (immediate, consolidation and working) and subjective state were all assessed.

The combination of caffeine and glucose had beneficial effects on attention (sequential reaction time tasks) and on learning and consolidation of verbal memory, effects not being observed when either substance was administered alone. Caffeine only showed improvement in simple reaction time and glucose in simple and one sequential reaction time tasks and in the manual dexterity assembly task.

The results indicate that the synergistic effects of caffeine and glucose can benefit sustained attention and verbal memory, even with adequate levels of activation of the subjects. However, further studies are required, controlling for different levels of cognitive effort and also considering measurements of neural activity.


Effects of low doses of caffeine on cognitive performance, mood and thirst in low and higher caffeine consumers.
Smit, H. J.; Rogers, P. J.
Psychopharmacology, Vol 152(2), Oct 2000, 167-173. doi: 10.1007/s002130000506

RATIONALE: Caffeine is present in many widely consumed drinks and some foods. In the fairly extensive literature on the psychostimulant effects of caffeine, there are few dose-response studies and even fewer studies of the effects of doses of caffeine lower than 50 mg (the range of the amounts of caffeine contained in, for example, a typical serving of tea or cola).

OBJECTIVE: This study measured the effects of 0, 12.5, 25, 50 and 100 mg caffeine on cognitive performance, mood and thirst in adults with low and moderate to high habitual caffeine intakes.

METHODS: This was a double-blind, within-subjects study. Following overnight caffeine abstinence, participants (n=23) completed a test battery once before and three times after placebo or caffeine administration. The test battery consisted of two performance tests, a long duration simple reaction time task and a rapid visual information processing task, and a mood questionnaire (including also an item on thirst).

RESULTS: Effects on performance and mood confirmed a psychostimulant action of caffeine. All doses of caffeine significantly affected cognitive performance, and the dose-response relationships for these effects were rather flat. The effects on performance were more marked in individuals with a higher level of habitual caffeine intake, whereas caffeine increased thirst only in low caffeine consumers.

CONCLUSIONS: After overnight caffeine abstinence, caffeine can significantly affect cognitive performance, mood and thirst at doses within and even lower than the range of amounts of caffeine contained in a single serving of popular caffeine-containing drinks. Regular caffeine consumers appear to show substantial tolerance to the thirst-increasing but not to the performance and mood effects of caffeine.
M Quack
M Quack is offline
Jun20-12, 02:05 AM
P: 640
Just scanning the abstracts, the common conclusion is that the effect is largest in habitual caffeine consumers.
micesacle is offline
Jun21-12, 06:25 AM
P: 2
Although coffee can increase mental functioning, for most people it does no such thing. That's because over a period of three days, the body will up-regulate adenosine receptor activity. So for most people, drinking coffee is merely negating withdrawal effects returning their functioning to normal levels. That's technically what the tests in the abstracts are showing, since they only include a 24 hour withdrawal period.

If you wanted to use coffee to improve your mental functioning, you'd have to keep going cold-turkey for three days to allow your body to return to normal.

It's worth noting that coffee contains cafestol which inhibits the enzyme that breaks down caffeine (for how long I have no idea), so I would assume that coffee would have a stronger effect than caffeine on it's own. But cafestol also inhibits the enzyme that controls cholesterol homoeostasis, so everytime you have a cup of coffee your blood-cholesterol levels increase by 10%. I don't think the boost is worth the risk to your heart really.
lisaray is offline
Jun22-12, 04:22 AM
P: 5
I've heard somewhere that Coffee improves mental function and i think it's true. Apart from improving mental function, coffee also have many other benefits.
Antiphon is offline
Jun22-12, 08:58 PM
P: 1,781
I drink a lot of it during the week and and none on the weekends. It doesn't improve my accuracy of thought but I go faster and so more gets done.

If you're doing something that requires very high accuracy and/or a low error rate (championship-level video games, golf, brain surgery) you should avoid it.

But for daily cognitive problem solving its a fantastic accelerator.
mazinse is offline
Jun30-12, 12:59 PM
P: 190
Lets not forget caffeine also causes migraine headaches if you are ok with that.

Register to reply

Related Discussions
Coffee! How much coffee do you drink? General Discussion 66
Any evidence to suggest alcohol could improve brain function for short periods? Biology 14
Anyone know how we can improve our mental math skills? General Discussion 12
hot coffee!! Brain Teasers 16
Mental Sex General Discussion 50