Regular caffeine consumption: a balance of adverse and beneficial effects for mood and psychomotor performance

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1998 Apr;59(4):1039-45. doi: 10.1016/s0091-3057(97)00515-7.


It has often been pointed out that caffeine is the most widely "used" psychoactive substance in the world, and accordingly, there is a very large amount of research available on the effects of caffeine on body and mind. In particular, a psychostimulant action of caffeine is generally accepted as well established; for example, caffeine has been found to quicken reaction time and enhance vigilance performance, and to increase self-rated alertness and improve mood. There is, however, a real difficulty in determining the net effects of caffeine. In a typical experiment the subjects have a history of regular caffeine consumption, and they are tested on caffeine and a placebo after a period of caffeine deprivation (often overnight). The problem with relying solely on this approach is that it leaves open the question as to whether the results obtained are due to beneficial effects of caffeine or to deleterious effects of caffeine deprivation. The present article briefly reviews this evidence on the psychostimulant effects of caffeine, and presents some new data testing the hypothesis that caffeine may enhance cognitive performance to a greater extent in older adults than in young adults. No age-related differences in the effects of caffeine on psychomotor performance were found. We conclude that overall there is little unequivocal evidence to show that regular caffeine use is likely to substantially benefit mood or performance. Indeed, one of the significant factors motivating caffeine consumption appears to be "withdrawal relief."

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caffeine / adverse effects*
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Coffee
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Reaction Time / drug effects


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Coffee
  • Caffeine