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Storm in a coffee cup: caffeine modifies brain activation to social signals of threat

Smith, Jessica E., Lawrence, Andrew David ORCID:, Diukova, Ana, Wise, Richard Geoffrey ORCID: and Rogers, Peter J. 2012. Storm in a coffee cup: caffeine modifies brain activation to social signals of threat. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 7 (7) , pp. 831-840. 10.1093/scan/nsr058

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Caffeine, an adenosine A1 and A2A receptor antagonist, is the most popular psychostimulant drug in the world, but it is also anxiogenic. The neural correlates of caffeine-induced anxiety are currently unknown. This study investigated the effects of caffeine on brain regions implicated in social threat processing and anxiety. Participants were 14 healthy male non/infrequent caffeine consumers. In a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover design, they underwent blood oxygenation level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing an emotional face processing task 1 h after receiving caffeine (250 mg) or placebo in two fMRI sessions (counterbalanced, 1-week washout). They rated anxiety and mental alertness, and their blood pressure was measured, before and 2 h after treatment. Results showed that caffeine induced threat-related (angry/fearful faces > happy faces) midbrain-periaqueductal gray activation and abolished threat-related medial prefrontal cortex wall activation. Effects of caffeine on extent of threat-related amygdala activation correlated negatively with level of dietary caffeine intake. In concurrence with these changes in threat-related brain activation, caffeine increased self-rated anxiety and diastolic blood pressure. Caffeine did not affect primary visual cortex activation. These results are the first to demonstrate potential neural correlates of the anxiogenic effect of caffeine, and they implicate the amygdala as a key site for caffeine tolerance.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI)
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords: anxiety; fMRI; medial prefrontal cortex; periaqueductal gray; social threat
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 1749-5016
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2022 09:07

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