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Caffeine Disrupts Brain Growth In Mice

Health: Nerve cells migrate slowly in rodents born to caffeinated moms

by Lauren K. Wolf
August 12, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 32



Credit: Shutterstock


Caffeine passed from a nursing female mouse slows down pups’ brain development.

Doctors usually warn pregnant women against having more than 200 mg of caffeine per day—the equivalent of about 1.5 cups of brewed coffee. This level of the stimulant is considered safe because it doesn’t induce premature births or other pregnancy complications, according to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists.

Researchers wondered, though, whether a mother’s caffeine intake of approximately 200 mg can have more subtle effects on human fetuses when the world’s most popular drug is absorbed in the womb or when transferred from mother to baby during breast-feeding.

Seeking answers, a team of researchers led by Christophe Bernard of the French Institute of Health & Medical Research studied pups born to female mice that drank caffeine each day from the time they mated until their babies were weaned. The female mice received a daily dose of caffeine equivalent to three or four cups of coffee per day for a human.

When the team examined the brains of the caffeine-exposed pups days after birth, they observed a delay in the migration of certain nerve cells compared with a control group of baby mice (Sci. Transl. Med. 2013, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006258). During brain development, Bernard says, “some neurons are born in specific brain regions,” but they eventually have to move to other areas. The team thinks that “caffeine puts a brake on the migration of these neurons” in mice, he says.

The brains of caffeine-exposed pups were also more excitable: The animals convulsed more often than offspring not exposed to caffeine when the researchers gave them flurothyl, a seizure-inducing compound.

“Animal studies like this one provide provocative reminders that subtle changes in developmental trajectory can produce significant changes in brain structure and function,” says Gregg D. Stanwood, an assistant professor of pharmacology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Bernard and his team are quick to point out that mice are not people, and no direct conclusions about the human health effects of caffeine can be drawn from their work. But, Bernard says, these findings should prompt further surveys of children born to regular caffeine drinkers.



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Linda Weyrick (August 17, 2013 7:09 AM)
Mice need prenatal education too. Mother mice need to learn the importance of good nutrition and staying away from dangerous
substancances: coffee, cigarettes, toxic paints, nom-organic food, perfumes, dryer sheets, pesticides non-GMO foods, etc.
Alison Smith (September 6, 2013 12:36 PM)
Staying away from chemical and medical researcher's laboratories would probably be the best course of action for mother mice to avoid these substances and thereby not put their babies at risk :)
mike (September 12, 2013 10:37 AM)
As us humans mice are dealing with alot of stress since the Finanacial Crisis. Mice are working more hours, more jobs and have less time to interact with their children. More mice, expecially pregnant mice women, are lending their bodies to science in and effort to make better wages and provide a better life for their little ones.
Mike (September 12, 2013 10:39 AM)
The article also forgot to mention that scientists have discovered that eggs are now bad for us humans again.

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