Effects on the Central Nervous System

Although caffeine is the stimulatory drug most widely used throughout the world, it is difficult to quantify its behavioral effects. This is primarily due to the differences in the form of its ingestion, that is, coffee, tea, or the pure substance. Another confounding factor is the varying degrees of tolerance that develop among its users.

Studies of the effects of caffeine on information processing (30), vigilance performance (31), ease of distraction (32), reaction time performance (30), decision making (33), and cognitive functioning (34) have been reported. Results are difficult to assess, especially with regard to cognitive functioning, but in general, low or intermediate dosages of caffeine are beneficial while high dosages impair performance. Gender, age, and task difficulty have notable effects on results.

The effects of caffeine on mood have also been studied. Again, improvements are experienced until dosage levels become high (30). At a dosage of 2 mg/kg, which generates a peak plasma concentration of 5 to 10 /¿M, individuals generally feel more alert and better able to carry out routine tasks after having become bored or fatigued (35). Caffeine may even counteract mood deficits caused by profound sleep deprivation (36). Conversely, omission of a habitual morning dosage of caffeine often results in nervousness, irritability, and poor work performance. The most widely noticed effect of caffeine is the prolongation of the sleep latency period. Its effect on the quality of sleep shows wide individual variation and is dose, time, and age

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