Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Ryan Bachtell


Caffeine is found in a variety of beverages such as soda, coffee, and tea, which are consumed by many people on a daily basis. Because of how commonly caffeine is consumed, it is important to discover the effects adolescent caffeine consumption may have on adult addiction behaviors. A rat model was used to explore the potential effects of adolescent caffeine consumption. Rats consumed caffeine during their adolescent period and underwent behavioral tests in adulthood to assess whether they displayed behaviors associated with enhanced vulnerability to drug addiction. Behavioral tests used to assess addictive behaviors in adulthood included drug self-administration (SA) and a Pavlovian Conditioned Approach (PCA) task. Our findings show that rats that consume caffeine during adolescence self-administer cocaine in adulthood at a higher rate than controls. Rats consuming caffeine during adolescence also have a higher breakpoint for cocaine self-administration in adulthood than controls, indicating that adolescent caffeine consumption increases motivation for drug taking. We also found that a greater percentage of rats consuming caffeine during early adolescence displayed “sign-tracking” behaviors during the PCA task that has been associated with altered dopamine signaling and correlated with increased drug self-administration. While the results were not as clear, a similar trend was also seen in rats that consumed caffeine during their late adolescent period. Overall, these findings illustrate that adolescent caffeine consumption enhances addictive behaviors in adulthood.