Can just the thought of coffee perk you up?

Can just the thought of coffee perk you up?

Do you ever find yourself reaching for a piece of chocolate when you need a pick-me-up? If you often associate chocolate with a reward or treat that will make you feel better, your brain might form a habit that reminds you that chocolate is associated with reward.

The same goes for coffee. Americans are drinking more coffee now than in the last six years, according to a Reuters report. But is it the routine of drinking coffee every morning or the actual caffeine that gets you ready to start the day?

The caffeine will have a physical effect if you drink the coffee. But a new study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition suggests that the thought of coffee, or things that remind of us of coffee, can activate our minds without even having a sip. This is what they call “priming” – when exposure to certain cues influence how you think or react to them.

Dr. Touwanna Edwards, a licensed clinical psychologist with Advocate Medical Group based in Oswego, Ill., agrees with the findings and says the brain has a way of establishing memories for things of interest and rewarding the body.

“Pleasure-reward pathways found in the brain determine which things are memorable and stimulating,” says Dr. Edwards. “Caffeine, which is a stimulant, generally has an increasing effect, which leads to feeling more active and alert. Stimulus factors such as sight, smell and sound can trigger anticipated positive experiences from previous use.”

Dr. Edwards says this is also true for other substances of use and can be generalized to other types of behavior, such as eating chocolate.

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About the Author

Natalie Passarelli
Natalie Passarelli

Natalie Passarelli is a Public Affairs Coordinator and Health eNews contributor at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. Natalie formerly worked as a media relations specialist and attended Eastern Illinois University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies. Outside of work, you can catch her at a hot yoga class or cheering on the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.