How does caffeine work in the brain


The correlation between coffee and the effect it has on your brain has spurred some real questions by regular consumers like you and I. Our concern is in the right place, but our heart is in a conundrum. So, we often ask the internet “How does caffeine work in the brain?’ only to satisfy our own heart. Some even go forward with the following line of questioning in hopes to find the answers that are in their favor.

Is coffee good for your brain?

Coffee is a great brain food if you want to be more alert, vigilant, and improve your mood for short periods. Long term uses have said to protect it against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Does coffee restrict blood flow to the brain?

Research proves that coffee does restrict the blood flow in your brain. Some headaches are caused by the enlarging of the blood vessel in the brain. Caffeine in the bloodstream can reduce the cerebral blood flow by an average of 27%.

How does caffeine work in the brain? – Negative impact

Caffeine is a stimulant drug. By the time caffeine reaches your brain the most prominent result is the instant energy boost you feel. You feel more alert and less tardy than before. It is found in most of the medication prescribed to overcome drowsiness and migraines.

If you remember your college biology, you would remember studying the lock and key model. The lock and key model is exactly the chemical reaction that takes place when caffeine enters your brain. Caffeine is the core part of coffee’s chemical makeup. It is bitter and is a white crystalline xanthine alkaloid that gives it its stimulant characteristics.

Regular consumption of coffee can result in a mild addiction that does not affect your physical, economic, or social state. Unlike other drugs, caffeine is a safe drug although it does have its withdrawal symptoms.

So, to be able to understand what happens once caffeine enters your bloodstream you need to know some basic biology. Even if you don’t, do not worry this article will break it down into simpler terms for you.

Pre-caffeinated brain

Before we can talk about the reactions that take place after your first sip of coffee. We must know the state of your brain when you first wake up. When you first open your eyes you feel groggy, this is the state when your body has metabolized all the energy from your dinner last night. Your brain needs the energy to start running again.

Post-caffeinated brain

For some people coffee is breakfast. The first action of the day is to tap on the start button of their coffee machine before they can even brush their teeth. Such people’s brain activity has become highly dependent on caffeine. You ask why? Caffeine is absorbed fastest and best in the form of a beverage. The small intestines absorb caffeine within an hour into your bloodstream.

When this caffeinated blood circulates through the brain it receives that boost of energy it has been waiting for. It’s just like refueling your car for it to start running again. When caffeine enters the brain, it starts to contest with a natural chemical in your brain called adenosine.

Peak caffeination

The caffeinated bloodstream reaches its peak within two hours. The brain too simultaneously reaches its peak concentration. The newly introduced caffeine and the previously present adenosine fight each other prevent it from binding with the A1 receptors. This is what gives you that jolt of wakefulness when you take that first mug of coffee.

Caffeine only acts as a blockade for the A1 receptor. It just prevents it from locking with the adenosine. The caffeine does not unlock it rather just gets in the way of the receptor. It acts similarly to the A2A receptors as well. The A2A receptors stimulate the release of dopamine and glutamine, which are both mood boosting hormones.



Eventually, the caffeine molecules unwind from the receptors just like all the molecules in your body. For the bloodstream to get deconcentrated with caffeine it takes about three to ten hours depending on the amount of CYP1A1 present in the brain.

By noon, your morning coffee has been completely metabolized. Fewer caffeine molecules now occupy the A1 receptors, so adenosine starts locking into them. This results in the release of hormones that promote relaxation, tardiness, and makes you sleepy again.

When you sleep your body starts recovering the adenosine molecules it had lost during metabolization. Hence making sleep an essential part of your day. The rise in adenosine molecules is the reason behind the lack of sleep.

To prevent decaffeination people often consume multiple cups of coffee a day. This helps decrease adenosine molecules which keeps sleepiness at bay. This may not be the best strategy in the long run as it destroys your sleep cycle and for some results in insomnia.

3 ways how caffeine work in the brain

1.      Mimicking

One thing caffeine does best is mimicking. It does an impressive job of pretending to be adenosine. Which is a chemical that serves different types of functions including regulation of blood flow. The chemical also counterbalances chemical levels including the excitatory ones. Caffeine mimics adenosine preventing it from performing its functions.

2.      Disruption

Once caffeine is successful in preventing adenosine receptors, it disrupts the control of the nervous system. The nervous system is unable to monitor hence resulting in some interesting reactions.

Hormones such as dopamine and glutamate are some frolickers that make an appearance. These hormones stimulate and energize but with lesser interference.

Additionally, this promotes the release of neurotransmitter serotonin and adrenaline. All these chemical reactions result in an energy boost that is felt right about thirty minutes after caffeine consumption.

3.      Chaos

Research proves the long-term causes that caffeine has on the human brain. This initially sounds scary especially when the term “brain entropy” is used. Unlike the negative vibe radiating from this term, it is a good thing.

The study further explains the caffeine as a potent psychostimulant. It facilitates the information processing mechanism triggering the brain cells to transfer information at a much faster rate. This process of increased efficiency of the brain is called “cerebral entropy”. The brain actively engages during this process. The researchers also reported the irregular activity of the brain as well as an increase in its capacity to actively process information.

To summarize

So, the next time you sip your morning coffee I hope you know what’s going on inside your body. Caffeine is a strong stimulant whose effects are still under research. Science is still trying to uncover the impact coffee has on our health. Coffee is the national breakfast of more than half of the population, and many are still unaware of the effect it has on their brain. So, congratulations you are now part of the very few people who know how does coffee work in the brain.

Now that you have learned new information on refrigerators, you must educate your friends as well. Share this knowledge with them and tell them all about the exciting things happening inside your brain.

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Immad Amir

Hey there, I'm Immad! I'm an SEO and appliance fanatic. Amna, my fiance, and I combined our interests and came up with RavvyReviews to help you all with our well-researched kitchen appliance reviews and foodie informative articles. We aim to learn more along the way and keep bringing you authentic trustworthy articles so all of us can have fun in the kitchen! We love interacting with you guys, do share yours thoughts in the comments. Get in touch with me through

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