Caffeine is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in more than 60 species of plants. It is most commonly acquired from coffee grains and tea tree leaves. Less common acquisition comes from the Brazilian Paulinia guarana vine, yerba mate, or cola nuts. Currently, it is also acquired through chemical synthesis. From a chemical standpoint, caffeine is a purine alkaloid, structurally similar to the cyclic forms of adenine and guanine – nitrogen bases that comprise the nucleotide building nucleic acids DNA and RNA, which, in the cyclic form become secondary signaling molecules. Because of its psycho-stimulating properties, caffeine is widely used as a stimulant of the nervous system. It acts mainly as an inhibitor of cAMP-specific phosphodiesterase, as an adenosine receptor antagonist, and to a lesser extent as a benzodiazepine receptor antagonist.1,2
Besides its building block function, adenine, in its cyclic nucleotide form, also acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Adenine accumulates in the intercellular and inter-synaptic space during the day in order to activate adenine receptors at night, which are responsible for feelings of fatigue and drowsiness.
Caffine easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and acts as a selective antagonist of adenosine by blocking the binding of adenosine, which causes a mild stimulation of the central nervous system, reducing feelings of drowsiness while maintaining a state of alertness.1,3
The adenosine receptors are widespread throughout the brain and their activation results in decreased transmission of the neuron. The blocking of adenosine receptors by caffine indirectly leads to the increased excretion of dopamine, noradrenaline, adrenaline, acetylcholine, serotonin, glutamine and GABA.4
Increasing the activity of dopaminergic neurons in structures belonging to the limbic system (responsible for emotional control), caffeine can have a positive effect on mood while the increased transduction within the cortical and hippocampal centers can have a positive effect on working memory. It was shown that 20-200 mg of caffeine can improve mood , concentration, confidence, physical coordination, and reaction time in performing simple tasks.4,5
A lack of sleep negatively affects cognitive function, in particular, leads to impaired long-term memory, which may result from the inhibition of neurogenesis in the hippocampus.6
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