Effects of caffeine on brain structure
Caffeinated beverages like coffee, cola or energy drinks could also have effects on the brain, according to a recent study. Regular caffeine consumption changes the structure of the brain, which is apparently a temporary phenomenon.
“Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance worldwide” and the study by the research team led by Dr. Carolin Reichert and Prof. Dr. Christian Cajochen shows “that regular caffeine intake changes the gray matter of the brain,” said the University of Basel regarding the study results. The effect seems temporary. The study was published in the specialist magazine “Cerebral Cortex”.
Investigated effects on sleep and brain
Many people find it difficult to do without coffee in the morning, and there is a reason: The caffeine it contains helps them feel more awake. All beverages containing caffeine produce a similar effect, only to a different extent. The researchers suspected that the consumption of beverages containing caffeine could also impair sleep, and since sleep deprivation is known to affect the gray matter of the brain, a change in brain structures is possible.
In order to clarify this question, the research team led by Dr. Carolin Reichert and Prof. Dr. Christian Cajochen from the University of Basel and the University Psychiatric Clinics Basel examined the effects of caffeine consumption on sleep and the brain in 20 young, healthy people. The participants also regularly drank coffee in their everyday lives, but were asked to interrupt their caffeine intake for the study period and instead were given tablets to take twice for ten days – ten weeks with caffeine, ten weeks a placebo.
The sleep quality of the participants was recorded in the sleep laboratory by means of brain wave measurements (EEG) and at the end of each ten days the volume of gray matter was measured by means of brain scans. The gray matter refers to parts of the central nervous system, which mainly consist of the cell bodies of the nerve cells, while the white matter mainly consists of the conduction pathways, the long processes of the nerve cells, explain the researchers.
No consequences for sleep, but for the brain
“ The comparison of the data showed that the participants slept equally deeply, regardless of whether they had taken caffeine tablets or the placebo. But there was a clear difference in gray matter, depending on whether the test subjects had received caffeine or the placebo, ”reports the University of Basel. The volume of gray matter was greater after ten days without caffeine (with placebo) than after the same period of time with the caffeine tablets.
More studies needed
The difference is particularly clear in the right medial temporal lobe of the brain, including the hippocampus, a brain region that is central to memory consolidation, the researchers explain. “Our results do not necessarily mean that caffeine consumption has negative effects on the brain, but it is clear that everyday caffeine consumption changes our cognitive hardware, which should at least give rise to further studies,” emphasizes Dr. Reichert.
Changes are only temporary
The study also made it clear that although caffeine seems to reduce the volume of gray matter, regeneration occurs as far as possible after only ten days of caffeine withdrawal. “ The changes in brain morphology seem temporary. However, systematic comparisons between coffee drinkers and people who usually consume little or no caffeine have so far been lacking, ”summarizes Dr. Reichert. (fp)
Author and source information
This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.
Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters
- University of Basel: Regular caffeine consumption changes brain structures (published February 15, 2021), unibas.ch
- Yu-Shiuan Lin, Janine Weibel, Hans-Peter Landolt, Francesco Santini, Martin Meyer, Julia Brunmair, Samuel M. Meier-Menches, Christopher Gerner, Stefan Borgwardt, Christian Cajochen, Carolin Reichert: Daily Caffeine Intake Induces Concentration-Dependent Medial Temporal Plasticity in Humans: A multimodal double-blind randomized-controlled trial; in: Cerebral Cortex (veröffentlicht 15.02.2021), academic.oup.com
This article is for general guidance only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.