Morning coffee, real stimulant or placebo effect?

Home Morning coffee, real stimulant or placebo effect?
Written by Doug Hampton

What if not “being able to start the day without a coffee” was just a simple impression of the effects it provides?

Nearly 7 out of 10 people consume coffee daily in France. But what if its stimulating effect was just a simple placebo? This is suggested by a study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscienceand which was carried out by researchers from several Portuguese universities.

Coffee: the study

The volunteers who participated in the study, all coffee drinkers at least once a day, had to abstain from eating or consuming any drink containing caffeine for at least three hours before the study. One part of the volunteers consumed coffee, the other consumed another drink that contained caffeine.

And two MRIs are taken, one before the experiment and the second, half an hour after taking caffeine or drinking a cup of coffee, in order to observe the effect on the brain.

Effect of habit or caffeine?

What results? On the one hand, and whatever the drink, the participants were more ready to go from a state of rest to work.

But drinking coffee also improved connectivity in the higher visual network and the good executive control network. in other words, the parts of the brain having a role in working memory, cognitive control and behavior aimed at accomplishing a goal or goals. And this improvement was not seen when the participants took only caffeine.

Caffeine alone is not enough

In other words, caffeine as such is not enough, it must be associated with the very fact of drinking the coffee, with the experience, the habit.

One of the researchers summarizes:

Taking into account that some of the effects we found were replicated by caffeine, we might expect other caffeinated beverages to share to be as effective as coffee.

And he adds:

However, other effects were specific to coffee consumption, driven by factors such as the particular smell and taste of the drink, or the psychological expectations associated with the consumption of this drink.

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