Does Caffeine Make You Smarter?

Drinking Coffee to Get Smarter

The Superpowers of Drinking Coffee

When people think of coffee, they typically think of the beverage that wakes them up in the morning. The caffeine gives them the boost of energy they need to get out of bed and start their day. In a nutshell, caffeine is synonymous with energy. But, can drinking coffee provide other benefits? Sure, coffee can be a mood enhancer, but what about making a person smarter? Does coffee have that superpower as well?! Is there such a thing as too much caffeine?

The Science Behind Caffeine

Caffeine is the main chemical in coffee that most people put any type of importance on. Truthfully, if it weren’t for the caffeine in coffee and the energy it provides, coffee probably wouldn’t be consumed as much as it is. Caffeine offers the drinker a boost of energy and wakes the senses up. For some people, just the smell of coffee brewing is enough to open their eyes. Once that caffeine hits the bloodstream, it does some pretty amazing things. Aside from turning expressions from one of sleepy to one of smiling, it also gives the brain a boost.

Caffeine blocks adenosine, which is an inhibiting neurotransmitter. Adenosine is a naturally occurring nucleoside that acts as a depressant and suppresses arousal ( Throughout the day while awake, the levels of this neurotransmitter increase, which is why by the end of the day, sleep comes somewhat naturally for many. By blocking adenosine, caffeine is keeping the body from becoming sluggish and increases neuronal firing in the brain, releasing other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine (

While dopamine is activated when something good happens, such as rewards, norepinephrine acts as a stress hormone and neurotransmitter. Norepinephrine affects the way the brain focuses and responds to events. This is a very useful hormone to have when learning something new. Low levels of norepinephrine have been linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression and low blood pressure. With an increase of this hormone, the body experiences an increase of alertness, arousal and reaction time (

Caffeine vs. Adderall

Oftentimes, students will turn to some type of aid to help them remain alert for either studying or classes. Unfortunately, a common answer to this need comes in the form of Adderall. Adderall is a drug typically prescribed to individuals that have ADHD. What this drug does is allows the individual taking it to focus and become more alert. Sound familiar? However, it also has the possible side effects of loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, headache, fever, and much more ( Adderall is a prescription drug, though some college campuses have had instances of illegal distribution among the students. To avoid this type of illegal activity, coffee is a much less painful and more desirable solution.

Students become desperate and fall victim to the pressures of studying and attaining good grades. Another student may think they are being a good friend by handing off some Adderall to them. Studies have shown that caffeine can be addictive, however, it is much less dangerous than giving a prescription drug pill to someone that does not have a true need for it or a prescription for it. Not only is this very dangerous but it is also very illegal. Rather than handing off some pills, offer to brew a pot of coffee. The desired result will be within their grasp after drinking one or two cups of coffee.

Too Much Caffeine

To be transparent, drinking too much coffee can also cause some undesirable results. A regular coffee drinker will develop a type of resistance or immunity to caffeine and will find they need to drink more than normal to get the desired affects of focusing and being able to absorb what they are being taught. This could potentially result in consuming too much caffeine.

Too much caffeine can result in migraine headaches, insomnia, nervousness, irritability, restlessness, frequent urination, stomach upset, fast heartbeat, muscle tremors, and diarrhea ( A person can oftentimes recognize when they have had too much caffeine before it becomes too serious. Quick speech is one of the signs some individuals notice about themselves when they’ve consumed too much. This is when a glass of water would come in handy and a few minutes to calm down. Continuing to consume caffeine after noticing this telltale sign is only asking for additional problems.

So how much is too much? If a person is drinking 4 cups or more of coffee each day, they will begin to see the above-mentioned negative results. Drinking one or two cups of coffee to aid in alertness is one thing, but to drink upwards of 4 cups is asking for trouble. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others and know their limits. It is important to learn to read the signs the body is letting off to recognize when its had too much. Caffeine is much like alcohol in the sense where it can absolutely negatively affect the body. It won’t inhibit the brain and cause a person to essentially lose control, but it can cause internal problems if too much is consumed.

This is why drinking the RIGHT coffee is so much more important than the quantity.  A good cup of joe can be worth a lot more than a watered down, poorly roasted bean.

Caffeine as a Tool

Caffeine in itself does not make a person smarter, but what it does to the brain once consumed makes it a very useful tool in the process of learning. Caffeine is able to release hormones that aid in the ability to focus and pay attention while also blocking neurotransmitters that lower energy and increases tiredness. In short, Caffeine is undoubtedly a very useful tool in studying, learning, memory, memory recall, attentiveness, and many other attributes commonly associated with intelligence.


Image Credits:

Coffee Brain [ID 33358789 © Brett Critchley |]
Guy Drinking Coffee [ID 160141566 © Roman Stetsyk |]