Morning coffee just killed your creativity

While caffeine unquestionably improves focus, it blocks the ability to let the mind wander and form original ideas.

By Jason Notte Jun 19, 2013 7:24AM
Espresso machine with mug, close-up © nd61 , SuperStockUm, so, like, caffeine is kinda bad for, you know, that thing where your head works really hard and then something happens.

We wish we had a better description of it, but our writer had two cups of medium roast before work this morning and his creativity is absolutely shot.

Instead, we'll leave it to Marina Konnikova, a New Yorker contributor and the author of The New York Times bestseller "Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes" to explain why the same coffee that supposedly helped Honore de Balzac reach his creative peak is frying the imaginations of modern drinkers:

"When we drink a caffeinated beverage, the caffeine quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier -- an interface of sorts between the brain and the body's circulatory system, designed to protect the central nervous system from chemicals in the blood that might harm it -- and proceeds to block the activity of a substance called adenosine. Normally, a central function of adenosine is to inhibit the release of various chemicals into the brain, lowering energy levels and promoting sleep, among other regulatory bodily functions. When it's blocked, we're less likely to fall asleep on our desks or feel our focus drifting."

Although a recent review of roughly 100 studies notes that caffeine enhances physical, cognitive and motor performance and boosts short-term memory, problem-solving, decision-making and concentration, it eliminates a key portion of the creative process. Simply put, caffeine gives a coffee drinker pinpoint focus, but it doesn't allow the mind to wander. And a recent study showed that losing focus helped inspire creative solutions.

As any coffee drinker knows all too well, caffeine also wreaks havoc on sleep, which is also key for creative thought. It impedes the ability to go into deep sleep, which diminishes emotional intelligence, constructive thinking and the ability to cope with stress, according to a 2009 study. All that blunts the ability to solve problems and draw connections between unassociated information.

So how you do you maintain that caffeine-driven focus without losing your creativity? Trick yourself.

The University of East London discovered in 2011 that if you give a habitual coffee drinker some decaf and tell him it's the real deal, he'll work not only more quickly but more creatively.

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Jun 19, 2013 9:25AM
I've had to go some mornings without my beloved black, regular coffee, and I've been as creative as a block of granite.
Jun 19, 2013 9:47AM
My mind wanders enough already! 

More coffee, please! 
Jun 19, 2013 10:09AM
I am most creative while sleeping, however, my efforts in petitioning my company pay me for time spent sleeping have less than successful.
Jun 19, 2013 10:58AM
This article just killed my desire to read more articles on msn. I just had coffee and it didn't make me so stupid that I believe this crap.
Jun 19, 2013 9:48AM
I do not drink coffee after 12:00. Win some lose some. Oh wait coffee is not the only thing containing caffeine. So why is this article singling out coffee?
Jun 19, 2013 10:27AM
The study points out why most businesses provide free caffeinated coffee all day ever day for every employee. They're paying most of their worker bees not to be creative but to focus, focus, focus.
Jun 19, 2013 10:42AM
Seriously.....who writes this stuff?  The tea industry?  How can I be creative if I'm sleeping?
Jun 19, 2013 11:37AM
What a dumb question.  I have more than enough creativity and I love my coffee.  If I am not mistaken lots of Artists, Writers, etc, come from Europe and Europe is the Coffee Capitol.  People there actually drink coffee though not Frapps and all that other Syrup that's called Coffee. 
Jun 19, 2013 12:20PM
Coffee kill creativity?  That's bullchit! I need a coffee when I'm going to work!  Commentary is a load of crap!!!!
Jun 19, 2013 12:12PM
What a BS commentary. Myself, and many of my fellow artists, all begin the day with at least two cups of Joe, and then proceed to create self-proclaimed masterpieces that continue to win awards and top honors at all the local art shows and galleries. Whoever wrote this ridiculous article probably forgot to drink his morning brew.
Jun 19, 2013 10:31AM

I'm thinking that these people didn't actually study highly creative people. There is not an artist that I know (and I know several) that doesn't have coffee or tea in the morning.


Jun 19, 2013 11:21AM

Absolute BULLCRAP PSEUDO SCIENCE esp. in light of the fact that there is no true discernible predictable measurement of so-called creativity. Think about it, these "studies" are designed by folks who themselves exhibit virtually zero creativity. In over one hundred years behavioral science has come so far...........not. Even with PET scans etc. where we can localize neural activity with specific functions we really have no accurate interpretation of what it actually means. In reality the greatest

levels of creativity occur when we ARE focused, motivated, on the ball etc. And coffee definitely provides a cerebral boost in all those areas associated with ........................... CREATIVITY. 

Jun 19, 2013 10:48AM
I don't believe a word of this BS.... I doubt the measures and think the results are there because of expectations alone.
Jun 19, 2013 12:50PM
NO, the one who PAID for this "study" does.....Government. How's that for creativity! (Original thought process) which they do not teach, they teach the collective, which has NO creativity!
Jun 19, 2013 11:00AM

Bah. Creativity is vastly overrated.


Gotta have my 1,5,7-trimethylxanthine...

Jun 19, 2013 1:27PM
stupid article, it's not caffeine but too much caffeine that is the problem.  in moderation it improves short term memory and cognition.   caffeine in soda is bad because it is working in conjunction with high fructose corn syrup to whack the body's ability to cope with stress.   
Jun 19, 2013 12:32PM
I do not understand what's the commentary talking about it?!!  Creativity???  Creativity for ....what?!!!!
Jun 19, 2013 12:32PM
worked dozens of jobs. creativity was always frowned upon. bring on the coffee.
Jun 19, 2013 11:12AM
Jun 19, 2013 9:48AM
Glad I don't drink coffee!! I like my mind wandering every 3 seconds!
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