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Coffee or caffeine?

A cup of coffee every morning may not be the only thing that fuels your day. “If you listen to these people, they usually say that they need to have coffee in the morning to get ready,” said Nuno Sousa, a professor at the University of Minho School of Medicine in Portugal. In our research, we wanted to understand the brain mechanisms and functional connectivity pattern that would justify this claim.”

Researchers of the study, published last week in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, studied 83 people, all of whom drank at least one cup of coffee a day.

They then underwent MRI scans to observe the participants’ brain activity before and after drinking coffee.

When all participants were asked to refrain from eating or drinking caffeinated beverages for at least three hours before the study, 47 people in the group underwent MRI before drinking coffee and again 30 minutes later.

The remaining 36 people were given caffeine diluted in hot water and had the same MRI scans before and after.


The scans suggested that coffee was responsible for certain changes in brain activity, with research showing that it is a stimulant and can make people feel more alert, while caffeine is responsible for other changes.

However, MRI scans showed that short-term memory, attention, and focusing activity were enhanced after drinking coffee, but not when caffeine was taken alone.

The study also suggested that drinking coffee makes individuals more ready to transition from rest to task mode by reducing connectivity in the brain’s default mode network, which is more active during passive tasks as opposed to “external” forces.

The researchers suggested that caffeine alone in the morning is not enough to get you alert, and that a special experience like drinking a cup of coffee is necessary.

“The pleasure given to a person who loves coffee in the morning is actually almost part of a ritual, and it’s really important for that person to feel like ‘I’m ready for the day,'” Sousa said.

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