18 Apr 2024

Caffeine connections

Millions of people start their day with a coffee and rely on the kick of their latte or flat white to help them wake up and face the world. But as well as being the preferred pick-me-up for many, what other effects could caffeine have on users, both physiologically and cognitively?

New research has examined the role caffeine can play in affecting capabilities that can have an impact on human performance. It explored how the substance is consumed in food and drink over the course of a day, as well as how it affects functions such as reaction times, alertness, learning and memory. And the study also highlighted areas where more research needs to be done to understand its effects and better predict how the commonly used drug can influence cognitive functioning.

The paper, published in the journal Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, said: “Caffeine is consumed by individuals participating in many industrial and governmental environments to moderate their behaviour. Its effects have been shown to vary depending on an individual’s previous consumption. A drug with such complexity should be better understood because it is consumed by individuals in high-risk environments to moderate their behaviour.”

It’s hoped the study will help create better systems through an increased understanding of how caffeine affects people, as well as developing an approach that can be used for other substances such as nicotine. The article added: “It should be useful to system designers who need to understand how user capabilities changes with caffeine consumption and decay over the course of a work day.”

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