Caffeine intake and cognitive functions in children



There is a growing concern over excessive caffeine use and development of caffeine use disorder in children.


This study aimed to identify the association between caffeine intake and cognitive functioning in children.


This study included 11,718 youths aged 9–10 years with cognitive and caffeine intake information that were extracted from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. The ABCD study is a longitudinal cohort study started in 2017 that aims to understand the relationships between substance use and neurocognition in youths living in the USA. Cognitive measures were obtained through the 7 core cognitive instruments from the NIH toolbox (vocabulary comprehension, reading decoding, inhibitory control, working memory, cognitive flexibility, processing speed, and episodic memory). Associations between caffeine intake and the seven cognitive functions were examined using multiple regression models.


Our study revealed that caffeine intake negatively correlated with all the seven cognitive measures. After adjustment for age, gender, sleep, and socioeconomic status (SES), caffeine intake was still found to be negatively associated with most of the cognitive functions, such as vocabulary comprehension, working memory, cognitive flexibility, processing speed, and episodic memory, except reading decoding, and inhibitory control.


As beverages with caffeine are consumed frequently, controlling their intake may reduce a risk for nonoptimal cognitive development in children.

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Data used in the preparation of this article were obtained from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study (, held in the NIMH Data Archive. This is a multisite, longitudinal study designed to recruit more than 10,000 children age 9-10 and follow them over 10 years into early adulthood. The ABCD study is supported by the National Institutes of Health and additional federal partners under award numbers U01DA041022, U01DA041028, U01DA041048, U01DA041089, U01DA041106, U01DA041117, U01DA041120, U01DA041134, U01DA041148, U01DA041156, U01DA041174, U24DA041123, and U24DA041147. A full list of supporters is available at A listing of participating sites and a complete listing of the study investigators can be found at ABCD consortium investigators designed and implemented the study and/or provided data but did not necessarily participate in analysis or writing of this report. This manuscript reflects the views of the authors and may not reflect the opinions or views of the NIH or ABCD consortium investigators. The ABCD data repository grows and changes over time. The ABCD data used in this report came from DOI:


This research is supported by Singapore Ministry of Education (Academic research fund tier 1; NUHSRO/2017/052/T1-SRP-Partnership/01) and NUS Institute of Data Science, Singapore.

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Correspondence to Anqi Qiu.

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Zhang, H., Lee, Z.X. & Qiu, A. Caffeine intake and cognitive functions in children. Psychopharmacology 237, 3109–3116 (2020).

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  • Caffeine
  • Cognition
  • Children
  • Executive function