Caffeine slows growth of ‘children’s plastic brains’: Rat study

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

“The brain of children is extremely plastic…”
“The brain of children is extremely plastic…”
Adolescent Sprague Dawley rats fed caffeine had retarded brain development and disturbed sleep patterns, researchers have found.

The brain matures rapidly during puberty and pre-puberty as cortical connectivity advances but the researchers led by Reto Huber of the University Children’s Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, found the equivalent of 3-4 coffees per day in humans provoked brain maturity to slow as measured by, electrophysiological recordings, behavioral and structural readouts”.

Reduced deep sleep was also observed, with Huber suggesting the two phenomenon are interlinked.

Slow brain wave activity and sleep

“The brain of children is extremely plastic due to the many connections,”​ said Huber. “This optimisation presumably occurs during deep sleep. Key synapses extend, others are reduced; this makes the network more efficient and the brain more powerful.”

The study fed the varying caffeine doses to 30-day-old rats for five days and measured slow brain wave activity (SWA) which they noted was affected until day 42.

The researchers found the caffeinated rats which normally become more curious with age, were timid and cautious compared to the placebo group on water.

“No matter what mechanism applies our study shows that caffeine interferes with cortical maturation during a critical developmental period,”​ they wrote.

“This might also be of clinical importance since the critical period of synapse elimination during adolescence is associated with an increasing incidence of psychiatric and mood disorders, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, substance abuse and personality disorders.”

“Thus, it will be important for future studies to investigate the effects of chronic caffeine application during critical periods of development in animal models for psychiatric and mood disorders.”




‘The Effects of Caffeine on Sleep and Maturational Markers in the Rat’

Authors: Olini N, Kurth S, Huber R 

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

4 reasons children need MFGM, according to science

4 reasons children need MFGM, according to science

Content provided by Valio | 29-Sep-2023 | White Paper

In this white paper, Dr Anu Turpeinen discusses the ample scientific evidence showing why milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) is essential for children’s...

An Insights-driven Holistic Approach to Health

An Insights-driven Holistic Approach to Health

Content provided by Lipofoods, a Lubrizol Company | 25-Sep-2023 | Product Brochure

As they adopt the notion of holistic health, proactive consumers are driving the demand for products that have science-backed ingredients and offer sensory...

Do adults need phospholipids for good health?

Do adults need phospholipids for good health?

Content provided by Valio | 19-Sep-2023 | White Paper

Phospholipids’ beneficial effects on children’s health are well established. Less known is the vast and growing scientific evidence showing how phospholipid...

1 comment


Posted by it's baby time,

This surprises me about coffee. I have drank coffee all my life and started when I was 5. I had a very high GPA and I consider myself pretty smart and at the age of 40 look like I am in my 20's. Maybe it might affect brain development but in my case it has done nothing but help.


Report abuse

Follow us


View more