Good News, Caffeine Fiends! Coffee Makes You Happy (Because Of Dopamine, Not The Taste)
Today’s caffeine communiqué brings good news for coffee lovers: Apparently, your daily cup o’ joe makes you happier–and not just because it tastes good. It was already known that caffeine indirectly boosts dopamine transmission (the ‘happy’ neurochemical) in the brain, but German researchers found that the added dopamine action also enhances word recognition skills–and makes us recognize and process positive language even faster. So, make it a double latte?
The researchers gave a 200mg caffeine pill to a test group 30 minutes before they were asked to perform a word recognition test, whereby they were asked to quickly judge whether a string of letters on a screen made an actual word or not. People are already more inclined, on average, to recognize positive words faster than neutral or negative words. But the caffeine-boosted test subjects recognized more positive words than a control group who’d been given a placebo 30 minutes before the test–and researchers think this is a sign that the extra dopamine transmission is boosting brain activity that gives us a more positive outlook, overall
The study’s lead author, Lars Kuchinke, told NBC News:
Caffeine may either strengthen connections to regions where positive information and positive feedback are processed so this information is more easily available during the process of word recognition,” he explains. “Or caffeine may simply facilitate the decision process.
In other words, the mood boost you get from being in a coffee shop is all in your head–not just the taste of your favorite espresso drink.
If your caffeinated drink of choice isn’t coffee, no worries (unless it happens to be Monster or 5-Hour Energy): Caffeine in any form will stimulate dopamine transmission and improve cognitive function. Just steer clear of Monster and 5-Hour Energy–and stick with drinks that aren’t super sweet (pretty sure sugar crashes don’t give anyone rose-colored glasses).