Coffee, cola or an energy drink: caffeine is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive substance. Researchers from the University of Basel have now shown in a study that regular caffeine intake can change the gray matter of the brain. However, the effect appears to be temporary.
No question -- caffeine helps most of us to feel more alert. However, it can disrupt our sleep if consumed in the evening. Sleep deprivation can in turn affect the gray matter of the brain, as previous studies have shown. So can regular caffeine consumption affect brain structure due to poor sleep? A research team led by Dr. Carolin Reichert and Professor Christian Cajochen of the University of Basel and UPK (the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel) investigated this question in a study.
The result was surprising: the caffeine consumed as part of the study did not result in poor sleep. However, the researchers observed changes in the gray matter, as they report in the journal Cerebral Cortex. Gray matter refers to the parts of the central nervous system made up primarily of the cell bodies of nerve cells, while white matter mainly comprises the neural pathways, the long extensions of the nerve cells.