Show Me The Java
For this week, lately I’ve been studying a great deal of cognitive neuroscience (at a basic level). Many of my conversations revolve around this topic and I just find how the brain works to be infinitely exciting. I’ve had a couple conversations about Seratonin, Oxytocin, and Caffeine this week with various students and teachers. A ways back when I was writing consistently for online media sources, I wrote an article about Caffeine and the brain for The Skrilla (which unfortunately is no longer going). So, I have decided to put this
old gem decent write-up on the blog. I reference the previous two weeks about “Dopamine” and “Oxytocin,” so make if you read this one and would like the other two, let me know and I will put them online:
Caffeine’s Blitzkrieg and Your Brain:
“Alright, so we have hit Dopamine and Oxytocin over the last two weeks. I decided it’s time to move onto something more relatable to everyone reading: Caffeine. Let me drop a statistic knowledge-bomb on you: 90% of Americans consume caffeine in one way or another. I checked the Census Bureau’s website earlier, and as of today we have 310,400,000 people living in America. That means 279,348,300 of us are jittery (and extra efficient) on a daily basis.
The chemical formula for caffeine is C8H10N4O2 (Which is exactly how I order it from Starbucks, “I’ll take a Venti cup of C8H10N4O2, please). Its medical name is trimethylxanthine, which is a bunch of Latin words strung together that mean “Sleep is for wussies.”
So how does caffeine work? Caffeine is sort of like an evil identical twin brother of a chemical called Adenosine. Adenosine’s job is to find an Adenosine receptor in your brain, link up, and tell the brain, “Hey, I’m getting sleepy, let’s punch out and call it a day.” However, Caffeine, being the evil twin, cuckolds (That’s a 16-point word in Scrabble) the Adenosine receptor since it looks identical to the Adenosine receptor. The Caffeine then tells the brain that it should crank this party up, resulting in even more nerve cell activity.
Still not getting it? You want one more example? Sure! Caffeine basically steps in front of the Adenosine and blocks it from getting to the Adenosine receptors, convincing us that we are less tired than we really are. It looks something like a football chalkboard:
As you can see in this game, the O’s (Adenosine) are trying to blitz the brain, but the X’s (caffeine) have mounted an impenetrable defense that might just take them all the way through the “Work Day Bowl.”
So why not just stay on caffeine all day everyday? When the Pituitary Gland sees this football game of confusion going on between Adenosine and Caffeine it thinks there is an emergency occurring and releases a boat-load of Adrenaline. This is why when you drink too much coffee you shake, your muscles tense up, and you get overly excited. Obviously, tricking your body into a body-wide red-alert is a bad idea for extensive periods of time.
Caffeine does have its benefits through. Drinking Caffeine, such as coffee, on a regular basis reduces your chances of developing Parkinson’s, Cirrhosis, Colon Cancer, and developing gall stones. Oh, and it increases the amount of Dopamine you get, which as I said in the previous article, makes you happy and excited.
So Caffeine does a pretty awesome job of tricking your brain, but it’s important to remember that it’s a temporary illusion. Caffeine wears off after a 6 hour shelf-life. Remember all that Adenosine that was blitzing the brain? Well, imagine the entire defensive line just disappearing and the quarterback (our brain in this case) getting sacked by every member of the opposing team. This is why we crash hard after a Caffeine fix wears off.
I’d personally recommend that everyone has at least one cup of coffee everyday to keep those Dopamine levels up and keep productive, just make sure you don’t yell at your barista for not getting it to you in under 30 seconds because they will decaf you (So many fond memories of my coffee shop…).”
A guy who drinks too much coffee…who also writes a blog,