Background: Caffeine affects information processing by acting predominantly on cortical activation, arousal and attention. Millions consume caffeine and simultaneously use their mobile phone (MP) during everyday activities. However, it is not known whether and how MP-emitted electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can modulate known psychoactive effects of caffeine. Here we investigated behavioral and neural correlates of caffeine and simultaneous MP exposure in a third generation (3G) Universal Mobile Telecommunication System (UMTS) signal modulation scheme.
Methods: We recorded electroencephalography (EEG) and event related potentials (ERP) in an oddball paradigm to frequent standard (p=0.8) and rare target (p=0.2) stimuli in a placebo controlled, double blind, within-subject protocol in four experimental sessions: 1) no caffeine and no MP, 2) caffeine only, 3) MP only, and 4) caffeine and MP. The subjects' task was to discriminate between standard and target stimuli and respond to the latter by pressing a button while reaction time (RT) and EEG were recorded. To provide a complete analysis of any possible caffeine and/or MP treatment effects that may have occurred, we analyzed the P300 ERP wave using four different ERP measures: 1) peak latency, 2) peak amplitude, 3) 50% fractional area latency (FAL) and 4) area under the curve (AUC).
Results: Caffeine significantly shortened RT and decreased AUC of the P300 component compared to the control or the UMTS MP alone conditions. However, no effects were observed on RT or P300 in the UMTS MP exposure sessions, neither alone nor in combination with caffeine.
Conclusion: Overall, the present results did not demonstrate any interactive or synergistic effects of caffeine and UMTS MP like EMF exposure on basic neural or cognitive measures. However, we found that caffeine consistently enhanced behavioral and ERP measures of visual target detection, showing that present results were obtained using a pharmacologically validated, consistent and replicable methodology.
Keywords: Caffeine; Combined effects; Mobile phone; P300; Reaction time; Synergism; Visual.
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