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Habitual Coffee Drinkers Show Different Brain Connectivity Patterns and Higher Stress Levels

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A new study has explored with unprecedented detail the effect of drinking coffee on our brain network. The conclusions help to understand to improve the effects of the caffeine, highlighting the improvement of the motor control, the increase of the levels of attention and alertness, and also benefits in the learning and the memory. The study was funded by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee, a non-profit backed by six global coffee companies.

A new study published in  Molecular Psychiatry,  offers a unique perspective on the structural and connectivity changes that happen in the brain of those who drink coffee regularly. The investigation, led by Nuno Sousa (president of the School of Medicine of the University of Minho and researcher at the ICVS), realized that, when at rest, this group of people had a reduced degree of connectivity in two areas of the brain (known as right precuneus) and right insular), indicating effects such as an improvement in motor control and alertness levels (helping in the reaction to the stimulus) compared to those who do not drink coffee.

Patterns of greater efficiency have also been found in other areas of the brain, such as the cerebellum, consistent with the effects already described such as improved motor control. In addition, there was a greater dynamic activity observed in several areas of the brain, in the group of coffee fans, which allowed adding to these effects a noticeable improvement in learning and memory. These changes allow even greater focus.

“This is the first time that the effect that drinking coffee regularly has on our brain network is studied with this level of detail. 
We were able to observe the effect of coffee on the structure and functional connectivity of our brain, as well as the differences between those who drink coffee regularly and those who don't drink coffee, in real time. These conclusions can, at least to some extent, help to offer a mechanistic view for some of the observed effects ”, explains Nuno Sousa.

And after a cup of coffee? These differences in our brain, observed among those who drink coffee regularly, were also noticed in the group of people who do not drink coffee after consuming a cup of coffee. This surprising indicator, demonstrated the ability of coffee to impose changes in short periods of time - and makes coffee the trigger of the effects.

The investigation was conducted by Nuno Sousa of the School of Medicine of the University of Minho, using a technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in order to compare the structure and connectivity of a group of people who drink coffee daily with a group of people who don't drink coffee. 


Magalhães R, Picó-Pérez M, Esteves M, et al. Habitual coffee drinkers display a distinct pattern of brain functional connectivity. Molecular Psychiatry. Published online April 20, 2021:1-10. doi:10.1038/s41380-021-01075-4

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