Caffeine may block inflammation linked to mild cognitive impairment

October 9, 2012

Recent studies have linked caffeine consumption to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease, and a new University of Illinois study may be able to explain how this happens.

"We have discovered a novel signal that activates the brain-based inflammation associated with , and caffeine appears to block its activity. This discovery may eventually lead to drugs that could reverse or inhibit ," said Gregory Freund, a professor in the U of I's College of Medicine and a member of the U of I's Division of .

Freund's team examined the effects of caffeine on in two groups of mice—one group given caffeine, the other receiving none. The two groups were then exposed to hypoxia, simulating what happens in the brain during an interruption of breathing or blood flow, and then allowed to recover.

The caffeine-treated mice recovered their ability to form a new memory 33 percent faster than the non-caffeine-treated mice. In fact, caffeine had the same anti-inflammatory effect as blocking IL-1 signaling. IL-1 is a critical player in the inflammation associated with many neurodegenerative diseases, he said.

"It's not surprising that the insult to the brain that the mice experienced would cause learning memory to be impaired. But how does that occur?" he wondered.

The scientists noted that the hypoxic episode triggered the release of adenosine by .

"Your cells are little powerhouses, and they run on a fuel called ATP that's made up of molecules of adenosine. When there's damage to a cell, adenosine is released," he said.

Just as gasoline leaking out of a tank poses a danger to everything around it, adenosine leaking out of a cell poses a danger to its environment, he noted.

The extracellular adenosine activates the enzyme caspase-1, which triggers production of the IL-1β, a critical player in inflammation, he said.

"But caffeine blocks all the activity of adenosine and inhibits caspase-1 and the inflammation that comes with it, limiting damage to the brain and protecting it from further injury," he added.

Caffeine's ability to block adenosine receptors has been linked to cognitive improvement in certain neurodegenerative diseases and as a protectant against Alzheimer's disease, he said.

"We feel that our foot is in the door now, and this research may lead to a way to reverse early cognitive impairment in the brain. We already have drugs that target certain receptors. Our work now is to determine which receptor is the most important and use a specific antagonist to that receptor," he said.

Explore further: Finding the roots of memory impairment from sleep deprivation

More information: The study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience and can be viewed online at www.jneurosci.org/content/32/40/13945.full

Related Stories

Finding the roots of memory impairment from sleep deprivation

June 10, 2011
Anyone who has pulled an all-nighter knows there is a price to be paid the next day: trouble focusing, a fuzzy memory and other cognitive impairments. For students, these impairments might just result in a bad grade. But ...

Recommended for you

Intermittent fasting found to increase cognitive functions in mice

December 12, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—The Daily Mail spoke with the leader of a team of researchers with the National Institute on Aging in the U.S. and reports that they have found that putting mice on a diet consisting of eating nothing every ...

Neuroscientists show deep brain waves occur more often during navigation and memory formation

December 12, 2017
UCLA neuroscientists are the first to show that rhythmic waves in the brain called theta oscillations happen more often when someone is navigating an unfamiliar environment, and that the more quickly a person moves, the more ...

How Zika virus induces congenital microcephaly

December 12, 2017
Epidemiological studies show that in utero fetal infection with the Zika virus (ZIKV) may lead to microcephaly, an irreversible congenital malformation of the brain characterized by an incomplete development of the cerebral ...

Presurgical imaging may predict whether epilepsy surgery will work

December 11, 2017
Surgery to remove a part of the brain to give relief to patients with epilepsy doesn't always result in complete seizure relief, but statisticians at Rice University have developed a method for integrating neuroimaging scans ...

Selecting sounds: How the brain knows what to listen to

December 11, 2017
How is it that we are able—without any noticeable effort—to listen to a friend talk in a crowded café or follow the melody of a violin within an orchestra?

Scientists discover new way to help nerve regeneration in spinal cord injury

December 11, 2017
There is currently no cure for spinal cord injury or treatment to help nerve regeneration so therapies offering intervention are limited. People with severe spinal cord injuries can remain paralysed for life and this is often ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.