Many people drink caffeine for the mental boost it gives them, especially during a groggy morning or late night work session. Research is now exploring the mechanisms of caffeine effects on brain activity.
The study focused on rats, meaning the results could be different in humans. A small dose of caffeine (compared to caffeine in coffee: about 2 cups, or four cups of tea) caused stronger activity when the hippocampus was stimulated.
The hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for memory (short and long term) and spatial memory (memorizing driving directions, for example). Further studies may suggest that this connection justifies caffeine’s role in studying and working.
Of course, the hippocampus is also a part of the brain subject to disease. The first sign’s of Alzheimer’s are in the hippocampus (memory loss, forgetting where things are), and the hippocampus can also be damaged by stress. Caffeine may play a role in future treatments of these and other diseases.
But everything’s better in moderation! Too much caffeine, in coffee or otherwise, can overstimulate other parts of the body, and may be dangerous for people with heart problems or other diseases. Plus, the more your drink, the more you build up a resistance, which means any positive effects of caffeine will be harder to achieve when you want them.
The study’s good news, then, in that only a small amount of caffeine may have a positive effect!
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