Brain Health,
Smart Drugs,

#026: Dr. Laura Juliano Discusses Caffeine

January 09, 2014

Dr. Laura Juliano is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Behavioral Pharmacology and Health Promotion Laboratory at American University.  She studies the psychological effects of caffeine, with an emphasis on withdrawal, dependence, sleep, and anxiety. Her research seeks to understand why people have differing reactions to caffeine, including how genetics play a role in caffeine-related psychological effects. As a Clinical Psychologist, she is also interested in developing innovative treatments for drug dependence.

In addition to conducting research, Dr. Juliano enjoys teaching about psychology and genetics to students at American University, and talking to the public about the positives and negatives of caffeine.

In episode #26 of Smart Drug Smarts, Dr. Juliano speaks with Jesse about the nuances, dangers and benefits of caffeine – the world’s most popular and readily-available cognition-enhancing drug.

This Week In Neuroscience: The Mysterious and Rare Connection Between Brain Damage and Acquired Genius

The phenomenon known as Savant Syndrome (a condition in which individuals who are otherwise mentally impaired demonstrate remarkable skill) is well documented, with examples rising to popular culture through films like Rain Man. We recently stumbled upon an even more bizarre and rare disorder called “Acquired Savant Syndrome”; a phenomenon where a cognitively normal person sustains damage to the brain by way of traumatic brain injury or stroke, but develops an almost super-human level of genius in some specific area, such as mathematics or music or visual art.

Obviously the specific cause of this phenomenon is unknown – and likely varies widely case-by-case, but neurologists are working to improve brain-imaging technologies to examine the neural mechanisms at work here. This raises an interesting question: Is it possible that genius is present within all of us? Lying dormant, waiting to be unleashed? Maybe, but don’t start head-butting your refrigerator just yet. There are roughly 16 million traumatic brain injuries and strokes reported worldwide each year and, to date, only 30 or so documented cases of Acquired Savant Syndrome – so the odds are stacked against the success of self-optimization through brain injury. But what does this mean? Could genius be partially or wholly impacted by certain structural attributes of the physical brain? This is such a wildly interesting subject and we’ll do our level best to get an expert on the show to explore it further. Stay tuned!

Read the original article here.

What You’ll Learn

  • Regulations surrounding the use of caffeine in commercial products
  • The optimum dosages of caffeine for cognitive/motor skill enhancement
  • How the body processes and metabolizes caffeine

Key Terms Mentioned


  1. ben says:

    Great episode, interesting to hear that nicotine improves metabolism of caffeine by the liver! Also, the idea of coffee before exercising in the morning (while still fasting) leads to better fat burning seems to be more than a myth.

    But because coffee is the most common way people get their caffeine/nootropic fix, is it possible some other volatile compound / antioxidant is at least partially responsible for its brain boosting effect?

    Caffeine may not be the whole story.. as Monica Reinagel points out, “drinking tea doesn’t seem to reduce your risk of diabetes, even though tea contains caffeine. On the other hand, people who drink decaffeinated coffee do have a reduced risk, but decaf only seems to work about half as well as caffeinated coffee.”

    Also CoffeeGenic Green Coffee extracts CGA, and there was a recent Shark Tank episode, where the company (Nootrobox Coffee Cubes) uses caffeine with L-Theanine, Glucuronolactone, B3/B6/B9*/B12. *The B9 comes in the form of synthetic folic acid. The same might be true for Tim Ferriss’ former nootropic stack (BrainQuicken).

    1. ben says:

      Forgot to include the link to a study that showed how percolated coffee (french press) elevates cholesterol not from the caffeine, but from the volatile oils in coffee!

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