RATIONALE Individual differences in responsiveness to caffeine occur even within a caffeine-consuming population, but the factors that mediate differential responsiveness remain unclear. OBJECTIVES To compare caffeine's effects on performance and mood in a group of high vs moderate consumers of caffeine and to examine the potential role of subjective awareness of the effects of caffeine in mediating any differential responsiveness. MATERIALS AND METHODS Two groups of regular caffeine consumers (200 mg/day) attended two sessions at which mood and cognitive functions were measured before and 30 min after consumption of 400-mg caffeine or placebo in a capsule. Cognitive tests included visual information processing, match-to-sample visual search (MTS) and simple and choice reaction times. Post-session questionnaires asked participants to describe any perceived effect of capsule consumption. RESULTS High consumers, but not moderate consumers, demonstrated significantly faster simple and choice reaction times after caffeine relative to placebo. These effects were not attributable to obvious group differences in withdrawal or tolerance because there were no group differences in baseline mood or in reports of negative affect after caffeine. Instead, the high consumers were more likely to report experiencing positive effects of caffeine, whereas the moderate consumers were more likely to report no effect. CONCLUSIONS The sensitivity of caffeine consumers to the mood- and performance-enhancing effects of caffeine is related to their levels of habitual intake. High caffeine consumers are more likely than moderate consumers to perceive broadly positive effects of caffeine, and this may contribute to their levels of use.
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