Caffeine strengthens action monitoring: evidence from the error-related negativity

Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2004 Sep;21(1):87-93. doi: 10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2004.06.001.


The medial frontal cortex, especially the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), is involved in action monitoring. We studied the role of moderate amounts of caffeine in action monitoring as expressed by the error-related negativity (ERN), an event-related brain component that reflects ACC activity. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects experiment, two caffeine doses (3 and 5 mg/kg body weight) and a placebo were administered to habitual coffee drinkers. Compared with placebo, both caffeine doses enlarged the ERN. Amplitudes of the P2 and P3 components were not affected by caffeine. Thus, the enlarged ERN after caffeine reflects a specific effect on action monitoring. We conclude that consumption of a few cups of coffee strengthens central information processing, specifically the monitoring of ongoing cognitive processes for signs of erroneous outcomes. Brain areas related to action monitoring such as the ACC presumably mediate these caffeine effects.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Attention / physiology
  • Caffeine / pharmacokinetics
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacokinetics
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroencephalography / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials / drug effects
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / drug effects
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Saliva / metabolism


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Caffeine