Cerebral blood flow and behavioural effects of caffeine in habitual and non-habitual consumers of caffeine: a near infrared spectroscopy study

Biol Psychol. 2011 Mar;86(3):298-306. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.12.010. Epub 2011 Jan 22.


Caffeine has been shown to modulate cerebral blood flow, with little evidence of tolerance to these effects following habitual use. However, previous studies have focused on caffeine levels much higher than those found in dietary servings and have compared high caffeine consumers with low consumers rather than 'non-consumers'. The current placebo-controlled double-blind, balanced-crossover study employed near infrared spectroscopy to monitor pre-frontal cerebral-haemodynamics at rest and during completion of tasks that activate the pre-frontal cortex. Twenty healthy young habitual and non-habitual consumers of caffeine received 75 mg caffeine or placebo. Caffeine significantly decreased cerebral blood flow but this was subject to a significant interaction with consumption status, with no significant effect being shown in habitual consumers and an exaggerated effect in non-habitual consumers. These findings suggest that caffeine, at levels typically found in a single dietary serving, is able to modulate cerebral blood flow but these effects are subject to tolerance.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Blood Circulation Time
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Caffeine / metabolism
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply*
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / drug effects
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared / methods
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Hemoglobins
  • Caffeine