Java Geniuses Analyze The Science Behind Coffee’s Magical Properties
It’s obvious that something is going on when we ingest coffee. Our insides seem to speed up. Our outsides struggle to catch up. Caffeine mingles with various parts of our nervous system, granting us a focus, mood elevation, and aversion to fatigue. But how does it do this? Is caffeine really so strong as to alter our brain chemicals? And if so, how does it even breach the neurological gates? Surely one of our trusty neurotransmitters would sense deviation and battle the intruder.
The real answer lies in a fascinating “magic trick” caffeine pulls, as it enters our brain with the silence and secrecy of a trained sleuth. Kids; don’t try this at home.
Double Agent, Caffeine
In our brains, there is a chemical, adenosine, that assists in winding down the nervous system and ultimately preparing us for sleep. Adenosine is collected and regulated by adenosine receptors throughout the day. When it comes time for our brain to power down, the receptors release accumulated adenosine. Our brain activity slows. And soon enough we’re lulled off to dreamland.
So adenosine is responsible for initiating the fatigue we feel later in the day. Caffeine, of course, is responsible for negating that fatigue… What exactly happens when these two substances, nucleoside and alkaloid, soother and stimulator, meet in the human brain?
Not much out of the ordinary, according to your nerve cells. Adenosine and caffeine possess many of the same properties; so when caffeine slips in to our system, it is actually goes undetected by surrounding cells. They believe it to be good old adenosine, coming in for another day’s work.
So, in a move comparable to that of an undercover spy, caffeine covertly enters our adenosine receptors, binding to them as adenosine would – but performing an entirely different task: speeding up nerve activity as opposed to slowing it down.
Caffeine, Dopamine, Adenosine & Adrenaline.
While tightly bound to adenosine receptors, caffeine is interacting with different chemicals in your brain. So, on the one hand, it’s blockage of adenosine is helping us stay awake longer; but the physiological changes that occur within us (rapid heart beat, alert focus, excitability) actually stem from caffeine’s interaction with other chemicals.
Dopamine – The dynamic between blocked adenosine and increased dopamine is actually quite interesting. It’s simpler to understand if we put it in terms of mood imbalance. Essentially, dopamine elevates our mood (the pleasure chemical) and adenosine is responsible for calming our mood. Researchers have found that dopamine is released through any kind of personally rewarding experience – yes, even when we find a dollar bill stuffed into the train seat. Those spikes of pleasure should remain spikes, however, and adenosine is responsible for regulating them, kicking in when we need to calm down. Now, remember; caffeine blocks adenosine and increases dopamine. So, it’s actually performing two tasks at once: delaying fatigue and increasing pleasure. Hence, excitability.
Adrenaline – While dopamine is increasing, your pituitary gland is signaled; as it is when any neuron firing occurs. Because your pituitary glands cannot conclude, “Oh – it’s just caffeine,” they immediately signal your adrenal glands to produce epinephrine, also called adrenaline, also known as the “fight or flight” feeling. This is how caffeine makes us hyper alert.
So we see, caffeine and it’s interaction with adenosine is only one part of the “neuro-process” that goes on inside our head. Caffeine performs many other functions while bound to your adenosine receptors. But it’s entrance to the brain is marked by this silent infiltration and mimicry to adenosine. It’s not that caffeine disguises itself to fit in; it’s that caffeine’s molecular structure is so similar to adenosine’s, that it can’t help but to fit right in. And once it does, it begins the work it was ingested to do.
And as with all processes that occur within the central nervous system, this chemical maneuver is a useful one to know. It’s gives us a look inside our own heads, providing us with the necessary knowledge to follow appropriate intake levels. Too much coffee will frazzle and fry your nervous system. But just the right amount will help you gleefully tackle the day ahead. When you know the neurological process, you have control over the neurological process; coffee is transformed from a “pick me up” stimulant to a deep, rich liquid for your tastebuds to savor.
Want to talk more science with one of our Java Geniuses? Or are you ready to fill your office with the sweet scents of coffee and kick your workplace power up a notch? Call 866-452-8228, or click below to set up a meeting with our dedicated team of caffeine professionals.