How Does Caffeine Work?

Have you ever wondered how caffeine works? How does it help keep you awake and more alert?

Caffeine has been shown to help with many types of brain problems. There have been studies that show caffeine consumption may benefit Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, migraines, and may even enhance memory.

Caffeine has many reported benefits and several modes of action. Caffeine can block phosphodiesterases, promote calcium release from intracellular stores, and interfere with GABA-A receptors (these can affect our moods and concentration).

The longer we are awake and the more we use our brains, the more adenosine (a chemical manufactured by our brains) builds up in our brains. Adenosine binds to adenosine receptors on glia cells. Glia cells are a type of brain cell that triggers sleepiness when activated by adenosine.

The way caffeine works on the brain to keep us awake and more alert is by blocking adenosine receptors on glia cells. Caffeine is structurally similar to adenosine and will latch on to the adenosine receptors. It blocks the adenosine from binding to these sites. Caffeine, however, does not activate the receptors—it just blocks them.

Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made. After a few days of consuming caffeine, our glia cells start to manufacture more adenosine receptors. It then takes more caffeine to block the receptors and we develop a tolerance to the effects of caffeine.

If you stop caffeine for about three or four days (on average), the adenosine receptors return to the baseline. Then the next time you drink caffeine, you are more likely to notice the buzz.

So the next time you drink a cup of coffee, remember it is blocking your adenosine receptors in your brain. I am sure this information is extremely valuable to you! Who knows, maybe it will help you answer a trivial pursuit question.