It seems brain scans confirm what coffee drinkers already know - that caffeine gives the brain a boost.
Austrian researchers say the scans show that caffeine found in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate stimulates areas of the brain governing short-term memory and attention.
Apparently functional magnetic resonance imaging scans performed on the brains of 15 subjects who had just consumed caffeine equal to that found in two cups of coffee, showed increased activity in the frontal lobe where the working memory is located, and in the anterior cingulum that controls attention.
Dr. Florian Koppelstatter of the Medical University Innsbruck says they were able to see from the scans that caffeine exerted increased neuronal activity in distinct parts of the brain along with changes in behaviour.
The study participants who were subjected to a 12-hour period without caffeine and a four-hour period without nicotine, another recognized stimulant found in cigarettes, were apparently better able to remember a sequence of letters after consuming 100 milligrams of caffeine, and their reaction times on short-term memory tests also improved.
According to research caffeine is the world's most widely used stimulant, and the global daily consumption of caffeine averages 76 milligrams, equal to 1 1/2 cups of coffee, while in the United States, the average consumption is 238 milligrams per day, equal to that found in 4 1/2 cups of java.
The research was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.