Thursday, April 13, 2017

Caffine Feign

We could all use an extra boost of energy in the morning or even in the middle of the night when you're trying to stay up late to study. But why does coffee or tea keep us awake? What is it about caffeine that somehow provides us a second wind to get us through that tired phase?

It all has to do with the chemistry of your brain. When you get tired your brain releases a chemical called adenosine that binds to a receptor in the brain; specifically the A1 receptor. This chemical reaction slows down your nerve activity, which causes you to become tired. When you drink or eat something with caffeine in it, caffeine is able to act as a neurotransmitter. It acts as an antagonist by blocking the receptor so that adenosine can’t bind to the receptor and therefore prevents the “drowsiness” feeling.
Usually it is hard for foreign substances to enter and gain access to the receptors in your brain, but caffeine is different. It is fat-soluble so it can pass easily through your cell membranes and even the blood-brain barrier, which is designed to protect your central nervous system from unwanted substances.

Due to caffeine blocking adenosine it also has affects on other transmitters such as dopamine. It does this by activating noradrenaline neurons and those neurons release dopamine into those areas. This is the reason why you might feel in a better mood after a cup of coffee.

However, if you drink too much coffee all the time you can become hooked on that caffeine. If you try quitting coffee you might get irritable or get frequent headaches. Since caffeine acts as an antagonist, your body actually up-regulates the amount of receptors it has and in this case it would be A1 receptors. If you drink a lot of coffee each day your body becomes used to having all those receptors activated all the time and when you try quitting, your body’s nasty response is due to those receptors not being activated. 


Posted by: Kate Masterson (Group C)


  1. I'm a huge coffee drinker but I've never known the exact chemistry behind caffeine. I think it's so interesting that coffee boosts your mood by activating certain neurotransmitters. I always thought coffee put me in a better mood just because it woke me up.
    Posted by Hannah Jordan (B)

    1. Yeah it was really interesting to learn how the release of one neurotransmitter can affect the release of so many others as well! I also thought that I was in a better mood because I was just more awake, but I think the extra dopamine really helps us out! Thanks for your comment!

      Posted by: Kate Masterson (Group C)

  2. What a fascinating read. The mechanism behind coffee is just like any other drug in which there are receptors and neurotransmitters through parts of our body like the brain. However, most people don't know this and believe it's just some kind of magic! Just imagine how many coffee drinkers around the world without a scientific background don't know how the mechanism behind caffeine works. This was an informative read that I believe everyone should get a chance to look at.

    Posted by Andrew Do (Group A)

    1. I agree I think that people don't know that drinking coffee has to do with your brain. I didn't know exactly how caffeine worked until I did some more research and I would love to learn more as to how caffeine actually travels around your body and finds it's way to the brain! Thanks for your comment!

      Posted by: Kate Masterson (Group C)

  3. It is so interesting to learn the biological mechanisms behind how coffee effects a person. I know that coffee and other caffeinated drinks are go to's for college students. Now I can definitely understand why.

    Posted by Leah DeLorenzo (A)

    1. Coffee is definitely a necessity when it comes to late nights at the library! I wonder how caffeine is created. Is it made in a lab or is it derived from a plant of some sort? It would be really cool to do some more research on caffeine and it's overall affects especially since us college students drink a good amount of it! Thanks for your comment.

      Posted by: Kate Masterson (Group C)

    2. Caffeine is definitely a natural plant product - like you were talking about. Coffee comes from a plant called Coffea arabica. I would assume that caffeine pills are made in the lab. Also many natural tea leaves and plants contain caffeine. It would be interesting to research the coevolution and the initial "purpose" or benefits of caffeine for coffee and tea plants.

      Hargun Khanna

  4. This was a really interesting post to read! I thought it was really interesting to learn the mechanism driving caffeine addiction. I didn't know your body actually upregulates the number of A1 receptors in response to high levels of caffeine intake. I think it makes sense if you drink a lot of coffee and your body upregulates the number of A1 receptors that you would feel some withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly tried to stop drinking coffee. I don't really drink coffee so I've never experience these symptoms. However, if I ever need an extra boost of energy in the morning or in the middle of the night when I'm busy staying up doing work, I'll usually take a 5-Hour Energy so I wonder if 5-Hour Energy has a similar effect on the brain as drinking coffee.

    Posted by: Katie Kossack (Group B)

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