Acute effects of caffeine on threat-selective attention: moderation by anxiety and EEG theta/beta ratio

Biol Psychol. 2018 Jul:136:100-110. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2018.05.006. Epub 2018 May 21.


Background: Spontaneous EEG theta/beta ratio (TBR) probably marks prefrontal cortical (PFC) executive control, and its regulation of attentional threat-bias. Caffeine at moderate doses may strengthen executive control through increased PFC catecholamine action, dependent on basal PFC function.

Goal: To test if caffeine affects threat-bias, moderated by baseline frontal TBR and trait-anxiety.

Methods: A pictorial emotional Stroop task was used to assess threat-bias in forty female participants in a cross-over, double-blind study after placebo and 200 mg caffeine.

Results: At baseline and after placebo, comparable relations were observed for negative pictures: high TBR was related to low threat-bias in low trait-anxious people. Caffeine had opposite effects on threat-bias in low trait-anxious people with low and high TBR.

Conclusions: This further supports TBR as a marker of executive control and highlights the importance of taking baseline executive function into consideration when studying effects of caffeine on executive functions.

Keywords: Attentional bias to threat; Caffeine; EEG theta/beta ratio.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Attentional Bias / drug effects*
  • Beta Rhythm / drug effects
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroencephalography
  • Emotions
  • Executive Function / drug effects*
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Stroop Test
  • Theta Rhythm / drug effects
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Caffeine