Background: Caffeine is a known vasoconstrictor that reduces resting cerebral blood flow (CBF) throughout the brain. This effect may be problematic in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research, as the blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal is a complex interaction of CBF and other factors that are dependent on changes in neural activity. It is unknown whether changes in the BOLD signal during an fMRI experiment could be affected by subjects' recent use or abstinence from dietary caffeine.
Methods: Here, we report two similar studies (n=45 and 17) that measure the effects of caffeine on BOLD activation, BOLD time course parameters, and CBF. Using a factorial design, low, moderate, and high caffeine consumers received either caffeine (250 mg) or placebo during normal caffeine use (satiated state) or after 30 hours of abstention (abstinent state). The fMRI of a reaction time task and resting-state CBF were collected.
Results: In general, acute caffeine administration reduced the time to peak and full width at half maximum of the BOLD time course, and CBF across both studies. Caffeine also produced a small reduction in BOLD activation. The majority of these reductions across measures were moderated by neither the level of caffeine use, nor the abstinent or satiated state.
Conclusions: These results suggest that dietary caffeine use does not produce a significant effect on task-related BOLD activation.