5 Things Caffeine Does to Your Brain

Does anyone dream about their morning coffee? 

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a fresh brew and the frothiness of your favorite creamer first thing in the morning. 

As it turns out, the effects (and joys) of caffeine go far beyond the excitement that rushes through your body after pressing the start button on your Keurig. Caffeine actually has complex effects on the brain, as it keeps you buzzing throughout the day. It’s quite a sophisticated substance that interacts with our bodies in a number of unexpected ways. 

From tea to soda to coffee, there are many ways to get your caffeine-fix for the day. When it comes to coffee alone, the options are seemingly endless: cold brews, nitro-chilled, shots of espresso. We could go on for days. 

Regardless, all forms of caffeine influence us from a neurological perspective, like increasing wakefulness and decreasing vulnerability to certain diseases. 

Here are some of the many ways caffeine affects our brains. 

Disclaimer: After reading this article, your caffeine intake may increase. 

It Enhances Your Memory

Consuming caffeine can boost your memory, an effect that lasts around 24 hours. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, in 2014, researchers at Johns Hopkins conducted a study where participants were put through a difficult memory test. They were shown images one day and different ones the following day. Then, they were asked to identify the pictures they saw from the day before. Those who had caffeine were more accurate when identifying the images.

PSA: If you have a big exam coming up, try this trick. It could give you a leg up when studying the night before.

It Affects Serotonin Levels 

Serotonin is the thing that stabilizes your mood and happiness. When you ingest caffeine, it targets adenosine receptors, which is the molecule responsible for the sedating effect on the brain. Caffeine occupies these receptors, sending a number of chemical effects. This will work to increase alertness and release serotonin, dopamine and a bunch of other neurotransmitters. 

That might’ve all sounded very complicated. Let me break it down a little bit. Caffeine elevates the feel-good chemicals in the brain, to make us more alert, in a better mood, etc. I’m pretty sure it’s the reason we all drink 2–3 cups of tea every morning. We have to be on-point for that 9 a.m. Zoom call with the boss. 

It Improves Your Thinking

…when combined with sugar. Caffeine, plus sugar (aka glucose), can increase the efficiency of brain activity.

When the two are taken together, your memory gets better, attention improves and your brain even uses less energy when performing certain tasks.

Overall, it’s the perfect excuse to head over to Dunkin’ and get a coffee and a donut (or two).

It Changes Your Word Memory

Sounds weird, right? Well, caffeine can change the way you remember words. Definitely a strange concept to wrap your head around. Here’s what it means — your verbal short-term memory will improve.

Caffeine helps people remember words with a positive association attached to them. And quickly, too. Essentially, it will boost your ability to recall happy words, but not the negative ones. This could be a birthday, anniversary, or something else with happy mems.

It Could Change Your Taste Buds

The interesting thing about a healthy dose of caffeine is that it can help you adapt to new tastes. So, if you consume something with an unfamiliar flavor, like hazelnut or pumpkin, your taste buds may like that new taste more quickly. Sounds like the perfect excuse to try a lavender latte.

It’s not clear why this happens. It could stem from stimulation within the brain, making us more receptive to that unfamiliar taste. Regardless, it could be fun to put this to the test at home. Maybe with those prank jelly bean flavors?

Caffeine binds to receptors in the brain that regulate your metabolism, body clock and even heart. But that’s just the start. It affects the nervous system at-large in several ways, some more complicated than others, even if we don’t fully understand why.

With more studies putting caffeine to the test, we could discover brand-new, surprising benefits of caffeine. This doesn’t mean you should have 10 shots of espresso every day, however. Your memory isn’t going to miraculously improve 100%. The benefits come in a mild form, but they are definitely there. Besides, too much of anything isn’t good for you — especially when we’re talking about 10 shots of espresso.