AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Caffeine

Is Caffeine a health risk in adolescence





That short burst of energy that one gets from caffeine may result in slower brain developments. SNSF, or the Swiss National Science Foundation, has conducted studies on rats, and have found that in pubescent rats the intake of caffeine has prevented deep sleep and delayed brain development compared to other rats that had no caffeine. This study is very prominent in our lives because adolescent intake of caffeine has increased more then 70% in the last 30 years. In this study the rats that were given caffeine were found to be more cautious and timid, while the rats that were given water were found to be more curious and active. Rats typically get more active as they grow older, but caffeine seemed to change this natural behavior. Rats’ brains are very different from humans so this study is by no means conclusive, but the brain development between rats and humans have some parallels. This study suggest that in adolescence the consumption of caffeine may have negative side effects on the brains development. Caffeine directly affected the sleep patterns of Rat’s, and many scientists believe that the brain develops during these episodes of deep sleep. Scientist believe that by limiting the Rats’s ability to enter this “deep sleep” caffeine is slowing down brain development. Huber, one of the main researchers during this experiment, said, “there is still need for research before one can make any conclusions.” That quick burst of energy that one gets from caffeine in the morning may not be worth the negative side effects that it has on one’s sleep and one’s brain development.



Caffeine Enhances Memory in Bees

Photo credits to Treesha Duncan at

Researchers recently discovered that honeybees get a memory boost from caffeine, both short-term and long-term. In their study, honeybees that consumed a solution with sugar and caffeine were three times more likely to remember a flower’s scent than honeybees that consumed a solution with just sugar. Three times as many bees that drank the first solution remembered the scent a day later and twice as many bees remembered the scent after three days.

This connection does not just help bees with their “foraging prowess” but also benefits plants that contain caffeinated nectar. According to lead researcher Dr Geraldine Wright, bees that drink the caffeine-laced nectar will carry the coffee pollen to other plants, leading to greater pollination.

Researchers found that the nectar of coffee and citrus plants contains low levels of caffeine. Caffeine generally acts as a defense mechanism in plants with its bitter and unappealing taste, so the presence of caffeine in the nectar surprised Phil Stevenson of the Royal Botanic Gardens. However, the nectar of these plants contained just enough caffeine to affect bee behavior, and not enough to give a bitter taste.

So what does this correlation between caffeine and bees have to do with us?This project was funded by the Insect Pollinators Initiative, as populations of bees have been declining. Understanding  the preferences of bees could provide clues to reinvigorating the species, protecting the balance of our natural ecosystems and agriculture.

The study will also allow scientists further comprehension into how caffeine affects the brain. Although honeybee brains and human brains clearly differ, at the cellular and genetic level, they function similarly. Thus, Dr. Julie Mustard of Arizona State University concludes, “we can use the honeybee to investigate how caffeine affects our own brains and behaviors.” Perhaps their study can explain why many people drink coffee while studying. What do you think?



Coffee Clues

In reading this article, I find one more reason why coffee, caffeine in particular, is awesome. Not only does it taste good, but it is a helpful hint in determining when and where sewage systems need to be repaired. Almost 3 % of coffee and other caffeinated drinks enter the sewage system through urine. Thus, high amounts of caffeine in urban areas shows that urine is present in the different bodies of water and is thus a sign of contamination by fecal coliform bacteria.

Gross right? Sebastien Sauve explains that if caffeine is found in sewage, that means that it came from human waste. However, he continues that caffeine is an important marker of sanitary contamination, or contamination by waste, because it helps to determine problems with multiple sewer systems.

Sauve and his colleagues discovered caffeine as compound that helps to detect fecal coliform bacteria in sewage through research on the Island of Montreal in Canada They tested for both caffeine and carbamazepine   and found that caffeine is useful in detecting coliform bacteria because it is consumed by so many people, in comparison to the compound carbamazepine, an anti seizure medication that isn’t as popular a drug as caffeine. They found that if caffeine appeared in the water at levels of 400 nanograms per liter, levels of fecal coliform bacteria were always above 200 colon-forming per 100 mL of water, a level that almost prevents swimming or bathing in the US.

Despite this highly useful information, caffeine isn’t always the best marker because water could still be contaminated without the presence of caffeine to indicate so, yet caffeine can be used to figure out when repairs to sewage systems are necessary.

Caffeine- helpful or harmful?

CC licensed photo by Manny Hernandez

As we all know, the highly addictive drug, caffeine, found in our coffee, tea, soda, etc… simulates us. Many people use caffeine to stay a wake which works really well. But it also causes a build up of fatty acid in the blood, raises blood pressure,  stimulates the heart, respiratory system, and central nervous system, causes stomach to produce more acid, harder to digest food because muscles surrounding the intestinal system relax, increased urination, and many other symptoms.

Is caffeine more helpful or more harmful? And where does caffeine really affect our body?

Recently, scientist have been testing caffeine on lab rats to figure out which part of the brain caffeine stimulates the most. In the first trial, they gave the rats more caffeine than what a human would normally ingest. They then decided to use  smaller amounts of caffeine which affected the hippocampus. The hippocampus is part of the brain which allows for long term memory and spacial navigation. In humans, the hippocampus is located inside the medial temporal lobe. Damage to the hippocampus may cause oxygen starvation and/or amnesia. The rats received caffeine equivalent to two human cups of coffee which is two milligrams per kilogram of body weight. The scientists measured the nerve cell’s electrical messages but examining different parts of brain tissue.

The region that had the most response to the caffeine was called CA2. CA2 showed a burst of electrical energy, while other brain regions in the hippocampus showed no sign of stimulation. The then tested the rats giving a greater dosage which caused an even greater stimulation to CA2. After that the scientists directly injected caffeine into nerve cells in a dish and the results were the same as before. About 5 minutes of caffeine intake allowed for the synapses to stay amped for three hours.

The scientists believe that when humans use caffeine the same area, CA2, will be stimulated and may strengthen a persons ability to learn and memorize, but this is just a hypothesis since they only tested on rats. So you decide… is it helpful or harmful?

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