Caffeine improves anticipatory processes in task switching

Zoe Tieges, Jan Snel, Albert Kok, Jasper G. Wijnen, Monicque M. Lorist, K. Richard Ridderinkhof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


We studied the effects of moderate amounts of caffeine on task switching and task maintenance using mixed-task (AABB) blocks, in which participants alternated predictably between two tasks, and single-task (AAAA, BBBB) blocks. Switch costs refer to longer reaction times (RT) on task switch trials (e.g. AB) compared to task-repeat trials (e.g. BB); mixing costs refer to longer RTs in task-repeat trials compared to single-task trials. In a double-blind, within-subjects experiment, two caffeine doses (3 and 5mg/kg body weight) and a placebo were administered to 18 coffee drinkers. Both caffeine doses reduced switch costs compared to placebo. Event-related brain potentials revealed a negative deflection developing within the preparatory interval, which was larger for switch than for repeat trials. Caffeine increased this switch-related difference. These results suggest that coffee consumption improves task-switching performance by enhancing anticipatory processing such as task set updating, presumably through the neurochemical effects of caffeine on the dopamine system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-113
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date23 Mar 2006
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006


  • caffeine
  • task switching
  • event-related potential
  • ERP
  • cognitive control


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