Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical Coffee affects brain power

  1. Jan 4, 2008 #1
    I'm just wondering about this, because when I drink coffee, sometimes I feel like I can't focus.

    Is it possible that drinking coffee will limit my ability to grasp mathematical concepts?

    What is recommended for helping me to get focused? I guess exercise is good, and maybe antioxidents like green tea.

    I am going to be enrolling in a Calculus class coming up, and would like to be mentally optimal. While I understand that everyone learns differently, I'd like some good advice about what is recommended (mental herbs?), and what to avoid (such as alcohol).
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 4, 2008 #2

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    There is definately a dose curve. Too little and I can't wake up, too much and I get jittery and easily distracted.

    But after a long period of programming I get immune to caffeine and I need more and more to have any effect. I then try and do a weekend or a few days without any coffee to reset - you can always do documentation or other non work while asleep in this period.

    I think keeping hydrated is important for learning as it is for excersise.
     
  4. Jan 4, 2008 #3

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    One thing I heard sounds plausible, though I can't back it up:

    Your recollection of information during a test or exam is better when you are in the same state as when you learned it. If you cram the night before into the wee hours when ou're groggy, but are then alert during the test, you will not remember as much as if you did your studying while alert. If you won't be drinking coffee during your tests, then don't drink it while you're learning.
     
  5. Jan 4, 2008 #4

    stewartcs

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    If that's the case I'm surprised I didn't ace every exam back when I was in college. I was in a state of confusion while studying and a state of confusion while I took the exam! :rofl:
     
  6. Jan 4, 2008 #5

    dst

    User Avatar

    I have had a constant dosage of caffeine in my system for the last few years and it hasn't really affected me mentally - not that it's possible to tell anyway.
     
  7. Jan 4, 2008 #6

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Coffee, tea, guarana, mate all contain xanthines that are close cousins. Caffeine in coffee or cola drinks or energy drinks is one of these guys

    These chemicals make you more alert, and possibly more distractable. The levels of xanthines in all these drinks vary wildly, depending on what is used to make the drink, preparation methods, etc. If you've been chugging energy drinks, then drink strong coffee made from freshly ground beans, you could be getting too much caffeine, which will make you buzzy and unfocused.

    The food industry seems to think that caffeine and company are a food group all by themselves. A lot of sodas have caffeine. There is a drink, Vault, from Coca-cola that has 117mg of caffeine in one 20 oz PET bottle, for example. The USDA NAL database shows 95mg caffeine per 8oz cup of strong coffee. You can do the math.

    I would think you are getting too much caffeine by accident. Watch the total caffeine content of your beverages.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2008
  8. Jan 7, 2008 #7
    At least you didn't do like me and fall asleep during an exam. Well, it was a politics exam, but still.

    Sometimes I tend to feel foggy even after 2 cups of regular coffee. I might be sensitive, since I can feel the effects. Actually, I seem to even feel the decaf. Maybe that's more psychological.

    I usually don't need coffee to wake up. I drink it because I like the taste. Which is why I do decaf sometimes.

     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2008
  9. Jan 9, 2008 #8
    Try drinking gin!
     
  10. Sep 9, 2009 #9
  11. Sep 9, 2009 #10
    hmm... gotta wonder if different people will get better effects from the different xanthines. i gotta have my coffee, but maybe the mate would make for a nice change of pace.

    like with ephedrine type drugs. ephedrine itself will create more anxiety for me, but pseudoephedrine makes for a nice clean boost in performance for a few hours.
     
  12. Sep 23, 2009 #11
    I've heard that the more coffee you drink, the more unfocused you become. I guess a sip doesn't hurt though
     
  13. Sep 30, 2009 #12
    Caffeine is a stimulant such that, if anything, you will get a boost in brain power. You should be able to concentrate more. As a quote often attributed to Erdos says, "a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems." Thus, you should not shy away from it. Furthermore, if you want a higher concentration boost, Erdos himself would recommend amphetamines, but I personally recommend methylphenidate or modafinil. Please be aware of all side-effects before indulging.
     
  14. Sep 30, 2009 #13
    like mgb_phys says, there is a dose curve. that is, it's like a hill. you keep adding caffeine(walking) until you get to the top of the hill. once you get to the top, if you keep going, you actually start going downhill again. go far enough, and maybe you find yourself in a valley lower than you started.

    many things are like this. 'U' and inverted 'U'-shaped response curves are pretty typical. the trick is to find the optimal, or sweet spot.
     
  15. Sep 30, 2009 #14

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I would like to understand how this might apply to a medication A-Friend-Of-Mine takes daily (SSRI). I often wonder what to do if He misses a dose (yes, He knows the drill, humour Him). I'd like to figure out how to estimate the dose curve so He can tell after, say 16 hours whether He should take a full does or a half dose or whatever.

    I realize there are many factors at play (metabolism, absorption rate, uptake rate, etc.) but I'd like to understand the general principles of the dosage curve. Is it symmetrical? Front-loaded? geometric?
     
  16. Sep 30, 2009 #15
    well, i don't think it's general enough to make a law out of, but some things just work that way. like say men and testosterone levels. if T is too low, men will have health problems. if T is too high, they might have problems.

    example: intellectual performance increases with T... up to a point. then it starts to go back down.

    but generally, for drugs like caffeine, you have not only the desired effect (alertness), but also side effects (e.g. tachycardia). mental performance at first increases with caffeine. but after a point, the side effects of caffeine interfere with the desired effect. for similar reasons, you can't trust most dieters with ephedrine because they don't understand that more than 25mg/3X/day is not better.

    i wouldn't even want to speculate about your friend's ssri. you'd need to know about the pharmacokinetics (physical distribution in the body's compartments, absorption and elimination) of the drug, the pharmocodynamics (effects and side effects at a given concentration), and the sort of pills he's taking (extended release, delayed release). maybe a half-dose is better if a missed dose is caught later in the day, but you can't split some pills.
     
  17. Sep 30, 2009 #16

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    This is what [strike]I[/strike] he does now. Just felt like seeing if it can be tweaked.
     
  18. Sep 30, 2009 #17

    MATLABdude

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    <SIP>I've heard speculation that ingesting too much caff--

    Sorry, I thought somebody was coming up behind me, but that was just my shadow.<SIP>

    Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. So coffee (which I term The Black Mistress by the way, and I say that with no racial overtones there) <SIP> may be abused by some people, but really, when you're pulling 16 or 18 hour days, that's sort of the way of--

    Sorry, I got distracted by my coworker opening up his chocolate bar and crinkling up his wrapper.<SIP>

    So, as I was saying... Sorry, I just realized we should start brewing some more coffee.

    Long story short, does that answer your question?

    (Yes, the above was a joke, but the combination of sleep deprivation, and high caffeine intake makes you super jumpy, shortens your attention span, and forces you to take frequent water / washroom breaks since caffeine is a diuretic. Nevertheless, Paul Erdos supposedly quipped that a Mathematician is a device that turns coffee into theorems.)
     
  19. Oct 9, 2009 #18
    Pick up a copy of Life Extension, by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw. Beware, they are hawking a number of consumer products - the book series discusses their research results and formulas/test results.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?