Nehlig A, et al (2010). SPECT assessment of brain activation induced by caffeine: no effect on areas involved in dependence. Dialogues Clin Neurosci;12:255-63.

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Caffeine is not considered addictive, and in animals it does not trigger metabolic increases or dopamine release in brain areas involved in reinforcement and reward. Our objective was to measure caffeine effects on cerebral perfusion in humans using single photon emission computed tomography with a specific focus on areas of reinforcement and reward. Two groups of nonsmoking subjects were studied, one with a low (8 subjects) and one with a high (6 subjects) daily coffee consumption. The subjects ingested 3 mg/kg caffeine or placebo in a raspberry-tasting drink, and scans were performed 45 min after ingestion. A control group of 12 healthy volunteers receiving no drink was also studied. Caffeine consumption led to a generalized, statistically non significant perfusion decrease of 6% to 8%, comparable in low and high consumers. Compared with controls, low consumers displayed neuronal activation bilaterally in inferior frontal gyrus-anterior insular cortex and uncus, left internal parietal cortex, right lingual gyrus, and cerebellum. In high consumers, brain activation occurred bilaterally only in hypothalamus. Thus, on a background of widespread low-amplitude perfusion decrease, caffeine activates a few regions mainly involved in the control of vigilance, anxiety, and cardiovascular regulation, but does not affect areas involved in reinforcing and reward.

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