Lorist MM et al (1995). Aging, caffeine, and information processing: an event-related potential analysis. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol;96:453-467.

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Structural and energetic processes in information processing were studied in young and elderly subjects. A visually focussed selective search task was used, in which subjects had to select relevant information, followed by controlled memory search processes to locate a target item. Caffeine was used to manipulate the energetic state of the subjects. During task performance event-related potentials (ERPs) and reaction time (RT) were recorded. Subjects were 15 young and 15 elderly healthy, non-smoking, moderate caffeine consumers (250-600 mg/day). Before the experimental sessions they abstained from caffeine for > or = 12 h. In the experiment subjects received 250 mg caffeine or placebo dissolved in decaffeinated coffee. RT data seem to indicate that aging effects are at least partly due to a shift in the speed-accuracy trade-off. ERP results provide evidence for decreased levels of energy resources in the elderly. The identification of relevant information and stimulus evaluation processes were delayed in the elderly, suggesting an additional effect of aging on structural processes. Caffeine improved performance and increased the amplitude of the N1, N2b, and P3b, in both young and old subjects. These results suggest that caffeine makes more energy resources available for task performance. The effects of aging on P3b latency were counteracted by caffeine. Other caffeine effects did not differ significantly between young and elderly subjects.

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