Published: May 8, 2019

CU Boulder alumna Michaela Palumbo, a former undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Ryan Bachtell's lab in the Psychology and Neuroscience department, is a co-author on a recent Journal of Psychopharmacology article exploring the link between caffeine use in juveniles and addiction vulnerability later on. 

From Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine: 

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to grab an energy drink for an after-school pick-me-up or pop through the drive-through at Starbucks for a morning Frappuccino.

But what is all that caffeine doing to their growing brains and bodies as they develop into adults? And could it lead to unintended consequences down the road? A team of scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder wanted to find out.

Using rats and several laboratory experiments, researchers in the CU Boulder psychology and neuroscience department set out to explore whether drinking caffeine, the most popular psychoactive substance in the world, would lead to greater addiction vulnerability. 

“Caffeine, as most people know, is one of the most widely used stimulants, and there just isn’t that much research on the early developmental period and what caffeine might do to people when they’re exposed to it in those early periods,” said Tracey Larson, a CU Boulder professional research assistant and the study’s lead author.

The findings of their study, which were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in November, suggest there is a connection between caffeine consumption during adolescence and cocaine use in adulthood for rats.

“The animals that drank caffeine during adolescence had an increased acquisition of cocaine self-administration,” said Ryan Bachtell, a CU Boulder associate professor of psychology and neuroscience who oversaw the research project. “They also tended to work harder for delivery of cocaine. This suggests that there’s an increased addiction vulnerability in those animals.”

Read more of the article here