Chronic prenatal caffeine exposure impairs novel object recognition and radial arm maze behaviors in adult rats

Behav Brain Res. 2009 Dec 14;205(1):191-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2009.08.012. Epub 2009 Aug 15.


In this report, we demonstrate that chronic prenatal exposure to a moderate dose of caffeine disrupts novel object recognition and radial arm maze behaviors in adult male and female rats. Pregnant dams were administered either tap water or 75 mg/L caffeinated tap water throughout gestation. Oral self-administration in the drinking water led to an approximate maternal intake of 10mg/kg/day, equivalent to 2-3 cups of coffee/day in humans based on a metabolic body weight conversion. In adulthood, the offspring underwent testing on novel object recognition, radial arm maze, and Morris water maze tasks. Prenatal caffeine exposure was found to impair 24-h memory retention in the novel object recognition task and impair both working and reference memory in the radial arm maze. However, prenatal caffeine exposure did not alter Morris water maze performance in either a simple water maze procedure or in an advanced water maze procedure that included reversal and working memory paradigms. These findings demonstrate that chronic oral intake of caffeine throughout gestation can alter adult cognitive behaviors in rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage
  • Caffeine / adverse effects*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Learning Disabilities / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Memory Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recognition, Psychology / drug effects
  • Reversal Learning / drug effects


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Caffeine