Caffeine and the Developing Brain: Molecular and Cellular Effects

Anzari Atik, Richard Harding, Robert De Matteo, Mary Tolcos

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Otherpeer-review


Caffeine is a widely used, legal psychoactive drug, commonly ingested during pregnancy in tea, coffee, cola, and energy drinks. Caffeine concentrations in the fetus are similar to maternal levels as caffeine readily crosses the placenta. This chapter reviews data indicating that fetal caffeine exposure during pregnancy can potentially affect brain development, predominantly through its ability to antagonize adenosine receptors. Most of the available data are derived from animal experimentation and there are little data concerning the neurodevelopmental effects of caffeine in humans. The findings of experimental studies are often conflicting due to differences in species, the degree of caffeine exposure, developmental stage of the brain at exposure, age at assessment, and the brain region investigated. However, there is now sufficient evidence to suggest that caffeine use during pregnancy, especially prolonged, high levels of exposure, can alter fetal brain development and may contribute to adverse long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeneral Processes and Mechanisms, Prescription Medications, Caffeine and Areca, Polydrug Misuse, Emerging Addictions and Non-Drug Addictions
PublisherAcademic Press
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9780128006771
ISBN (Print)9780128006344
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2016


  • Caffeine
  • Development
  • Fetus
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Pregnancy

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