Caffeine consumption disrupts hippocampal long-term potentiation in freely behaving rats

J. Harry Blaise, Trinity College Hartford
Jee E. Park, Trinity College Hartford
Nicholas J. Bellas, Trinity College Hartford
Thomas M. Gitchell, Trinity College Hartford
Vy Phan, Trinity College Hartford


© 2018 The Authors. Caffeine, one of the most commonly consumed psychoactive substances in the world, has long been known to alter neurological functions, such as alertness, attention, and memory. Despite caffeine’s popularity, systematic investigations of its effects on synaptic plasticity in the brain are still lacking. Here we used a freely behaving rodent model of long-term potentiation (LTP), a frequently studied form of synaptic plasticity, to assess the effects of caffeine consumption on hippocampal plasticity. LTP, which is a persistent increase in the strength of synaptic connections between neurons, is a cellular mechanism widely considered to underlie the processes of learning and memory. A group of 10-week-old Sprague-Dawley rats were administered caffeine (1 g/L) in their drinking water 3 weeks prior to collection of electrophysiological data. Another group of age-matched animals received tap water and served as controls. Stimulating and recording electrodes were chronically implanted in the perforant pathway (PP) and dentate gyrus (DG) region of the hippocampus, respectively, to permit stable electrophysiological recordings of synaptic transmission at this synapse. Population spike amplitude (PSA) measures of LTP induction and duration were acquired in vivo while animals were freely behaving using a well-established electrophysiological recording protocol. Results indicate caffeine-treated rats (n = 9) had a significantly (P < 0.05) reduced level of LTP induction compared with controls (n = 10). More studies are needed to identify the exact mechanism through which caffeine alters LTP induction in this freely behaving model of synaptic plasticity.