Caffeine and Cognitive Function

I don’t know where I would be without caffeine. From long nights writing papers, to trying to wake up at a normal hour for humans, coffee and energy drinks have been my go-to. With around 2 billion cups of coffee drank per day, it is obviously well-known for its ability to increase alertness and focus, but recent research has shown that it can also improve executive functioning. Executive functioning is a set of cognitive abilities that help us plan, organize, and manage our thoughts and actions.

Previous research as shown that moderated doses of caffeine can improve energy and well-being. Other research into the area of caffeine’s effect on the brain, has shown decreases in alpha brain waves leading to increased arousal. Researchers were interested in if a low-dose of caffeine, 30-50mg, can affect brain wave activity and cognitive function.

The team gathered 25 males with an average age of 21 years old. These participants regularly consumed 1 can of soda or 1-2 cups or fewer of caffeinated coffee or tea, per day. The participants were randomly split into two groups.

The two groups were both given a placebo and a drink containing 50 mg of caffeine, but in different orders. The study was double-blind, researchers and participants didn’t know which group was getting the placebo and which was getting the caffeine. Participants were asked to visit a lab three times, during the second and third days, they were asked to take an EEG then perform cognitive tests. After the tests they were given a drink depending on their group, and after 30 minutes were asked to take an EEG and perform the cognitive tests again. This was repeated a week later but the drinks for the groups were switched.

The results of the study found alpha waves in the brain were lowered 30 minutes after the consumption of caffeine. As higher alpha waves indicate drowsiness, the lowering of them after caffeine ingestion shows an improvement in participants wakefulness. Cognitive function was also positively impacted by the caffeine, participants showed in increase in attention and working memory.

This study is one of the first to indicate and inverse correlation between alpha waves and cognitive functioning after consuming a low-dose of caffeine.  Though it should be noted there are a good number of limitations with the study. The doses of caffeine were not dependent on body weight, meaning that each participant had slightly different levels of caffeine concentrations in their body. All of the participants were males and young, not allowing for a broad generalization of results. Lastly, some aspects of cognitive function were not tested.

Original Article:

Add Your Comment