In a new study, scientists evaluated the effects of caffeine on the gray matter of the brain in healthy young adults. The study involved 20 people. In the first part of the experiment, they received three tablets of caffeine per day for 10 days, in the second – three tablets of placebo during the same period. During the study, they were required not to consume coffee. At the end of each block of the study, scientists performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography to assess the volume and activity of the brain.
The gray matter volume in the study participants decreased markedly after 10 days of caffeine consumption. This was especially noticeable in the right middle temporal lobe of the brain. This part of the brain includes the hippocampus, which plays a role in the formation of memory and spatial thinking. There was no such effect after taking a placebo.
Whether the participants received caffeine or a placebo, the duration and depth of their sleep did not change. This suggests that changes in the cerebral cortex are not related to sleep.
Carolin Reichert of the University of Basel, co-author of the study, points out that “caffeine” changes in gray matter appear to be rapidly reversible. They go away after you stop taking caffeine. The authors emphasize that this study does not suggest that coffee can harm cognitive function.
Previously, several studies have shown that coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of dementia, slower cognitive decline, and a lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases. The authors of the new study suggest that their data do not match those of a number of other studies, since they focused on young healthy people. Participants in other studies on the effects of coffee on the brain were elderly and suffered from some degree of degeneration of nerve tissue.