Drinking a cup of coffee regularly causes a decrease in so-called gray matter in the brain, a new study shows. And that could potentially affect our ability to process information.
Scientists at the Swiss University of Basel have now found evidence that daily caffeine consumption can significantly reduce the volume of gray matter in the human brain. Although they emphasize that this does not imply that caffeine has a negative influence.
7 espressos a day
The researchers gave 20 volunteers three 150 mg servings of caffeine per day for 10 days – an intake equivalent to about four or five small cups of coffee per day or seven single espressos. During a second 10-day period, the participants were given a placebo.
After 10 days on caffeine, the scientists observed a significant decrease in gray matter, in contrast to the placebo period. Remarkable: during deep sleep, there was no difference in brain activity between the period with caffeine and the 10 days without. This suggests that the reduced gray matter is not related to sleep disorders, but may be a unique feature of caffeine.
The effect of caffeine on the brain was particularly evident in the right hemisphere temporal lobe, including the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in, among other things, memory formation.
“The changes in brain morphology appear to be temporary, but systematic comparisons between coffee drinkers and people who usually consume little or no caffeine have so far failed to materialize,” said Carolin Reichert, co-author of the study.
Reichert also points out that her findings do not mean that caffeine impairs our cognitive ability, but that more research is needed. Recent studies show how caffeine has a neuroprotective effect and slows cognitive decline in older people at high risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.