Modafinil or caffeine? Drug or… drug?

Study Title Caffeine and modafinil ameliorate the neuroinflammation and anxious behaviour in rats during sleep deprivation by inhibiting the microglia activation.
Study Authors
Meetu Wadhwa, Garima Chauhan, Koustav Roy, Surajit Sahu, Satyanarayan Deep, Vishal Jain, Krishna Kishore, Koushik Ray, Lalan Thakur, and Usha Panjwani
Study Model Animal - Rat
Abstract Link


There is always a choice. More and more people choose to use smart drugs to improve their cognitive performance, but do they perform better than people who choose coffee?

Meetu Wadhwa et al compared the effects of caffeine and modafinil in sleep-deprived rats. The study was published in “Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience” with a long, long title:

“Caffeine and modafinil ameliorate the neuroinflammation and anxious behaviour in rats during sleep deprivation by inhibiting the microglia activation”

Sleep deprivation is associated with mood changes, worse mental performance, and increase in anxiety. It is also very common health problem, as people work longer and longer hours to meet the demands of their work life.

    I’m writing this article being sleep-deprived too (on top of that it’s my fasting day), so I might need some coffee boost before I fall asleep on the keyboard.

    In Meetu’s study animals were sleep-deprived for 48 hours, which was followed by a number of tests to measure rats’ cognitive ability and anxiety levels.

    Interestingly, both modafinil and caffeine decreased brain inflammation in sleep-deprived animals, shown as a downregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines and upregulation of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which are small proteins playing role in the regulation of the immune system.

    In addition, caffeine/modafinil treatment reversed the depressive/anxiety-like behaviour, which I guess is not surprising as anybody who drives at night with little sleep can tell – caffeine keeps you going! That’s not the point here though. The point is that caffeine had the same effect as modafinil. Good old coffee got the job done. Modafinil is still a new substance, which will require more testing to establish long-term safety.

    Unless you are a marine commando, navy seal, or a sleep-deprived astronaut most likely coffee is a better choice for you and your long-term health. Modafinil has been used in professions I mentioned, but that’s also true for other drugs like amphetamines that most people wouldn’t want to take even though they could provide a short-term cognitive benefit.

    Almost forgot, but (thanks to coffee) I realised that there was one more thing I wanted to write about. We need to recognise and remember that our food and drink, even though it’s all natural, it’s still full of ‘drugs’, active compounds which have an impact on processes at the molecular level just as modafinil. Think about this next time you have coffee – is it just a drink to you? Or maybe a potent cocktail of biologically active compounds?

    The final question remains: Caffeine or modafinil? What’s your choice and why?

    Dr Bart Alright 


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