Does acute caffeine ingestion alter brain metabolism in young adults?

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30 Scopus citations


Caffeine, as the most commonly used stimulant drug, improves vigilance and, in some cases, cognition. However, the exact effect of caffeine on brain activity has not been fully elucidated. Because caffeine has a pronounced vascular effect which is independent of any neural effects, many hemodynamics-based methods such as fMRI cannot be readily applied without a proper calibration. The scope of the present work is two-fold. In Study 1, we used a recently developed MRI technique to examine the time-dependent changes in whole-brain cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen (CMRO2) following the ingestion of 200mg caffeine. It was found that, despite a pronounced decrease in CBF (p<0.001), global CMRO2 did not change significantly. Instead, the oxygen extraction fraction (OEF) was significantly elevated (p=0.002) to fully compensate for the reduced blood supply. Using the whole-brain finding as a reference, we aim to investigate whether there are any regional differences in the brain's response to caffeine. Therefore, in Study 2, we examined regional heterogeneities in CBF changes following the same amount of caffeine ingestion. We found that posterior brain regions such as posterior cingulate cortex and superior temporal regions manifested a slower CBF reduction, whereas anterior brain regions including dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and medial frontal cortex showed a faster rate of decline. These findings have a few possible explanations. One is that caffeine may result in a region-dependent increase or decrease in brain activity, resulting in an unaltered average brain metabolic rate. The other is that caffeine's effect on vasculature may be region-specific. Plausibility of these explanations is discussed in the context of spatial distribution of the adenosine receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-47
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Apr 5 2015


  • Caffeine
  • Cerebral blood flow
  • Cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen
  • Cerebral venous oxygenation
  • Oxygen extraction fraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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