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Medical Can coffee improve mental function?

  1. Jun 19, 2012 #1
    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!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 19, 2012 #2


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    I would say for most of us, yes, caffeine improves mental function. Why do you think so many people use it?
  4. Jun 19, 2012 #3


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    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).
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2012
  5. Jun 19, 2012 #4
    "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.
  6. Jun 19, 2012 #5
    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.
  7. Jun 19, 2012 #6


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    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.






    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 19, 2012
  8. Jun 20, 2012 #7
    Just scanning the abstracts, the common conclusion is that the effect is largest in habitual caffeine consumers.
  9. Jun 21, 2012 #8
    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.
  10. Jun 22, 2012 #9
    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.
  11. Jun 22, 2012 #10
    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.
  12. Jun 30, 2012 #11
    Lets not forget caffeine also causes migraine headaches if you are ok with that.
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