The effect of self-regulated caffeine use on cognition in young adults

Hum Psychopharmacol. 2015 Mar;30(2):123-30. doi: 10.1002/hup.2464. Epub 2015 Feb 17.


Objective: Based on previous observational studies that have suggested self-regulated caffeine use by older adults may enhance reaction time performance and vigilance on cognitive tasks, the current study sought to examine whether this effect held true for young adults as well.

Methods: One hundred and four young adults from two major metropolitan areas, ages 18-29 years, not meeting the criteria for a current psychiatric disorder, completed several cognitive tasks related to decision-making (Cambridge Gamble Task), response inhibition and reaction time (stop-signal task), and vigilance and reaction time (Rapid Visual Information Processing). Caffeine usage was self-reported using a reliable quantity and frequency questionnaire.

Results: Self-reported caffeine usage was not significantly associated with any of the cognitive measures used in this study after controlling for age, gender, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, cannabis use, and gambling frequency.

Conclusions: These data suggest that self-regulated caffeine usage may not have a significant impact on reaction time, vigilance, response inhibition, or decision-making in young adults, or that these effects are contingent upon other variables not accounted for in the current study.

Keywords: CANTAB; Rapid Visual Information Processing; caffeine use questionnaire; decision-making; reaction time; stop-signal task.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Decision Making / drug effects
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Self Report
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Caffeine