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Caffeine Enhances Vision in Moving Conditions

5 February 2022
Giulio Prisco

Dynamic Vision

Researchers at University of Waterloo and University of Granada have studied caffeine's effects on dynamic visual skills. They concluded that caffeine increases alertness and detection accuracy for moving targets. Caffeine also improves reaction times.

Dynamic visual acuity is defined as clarity and sharpness of vision in dynamic (moving) conditions. Dynamic visual acuity is especially important in the many daily activities during which we, or objects around us, are moving.

"A lot of what happens in our environment is moving - like trying to cross a busy intersection as a pedestrian or finding something on a shelf as you're walking through the aisles of a grocery store," said researcher Kristine Dalton in a press release issued by University of Waterloo. "Testing visual acuity under dynamic conditions can provide more information about our functional performance in these scenarios than traditional static visual acuity measurements alone."

A paper is published in Psychopharmacology. In it, the researchers report their findings on the effects of caffeine intake on dynamic visual acuity.

21 low caffeine consumers, most in their early twenties, took part in this study. On two different days, and following a random order, participants ingested either caffeine (4 mg/kg) or placebo. And dynamic visual acuity was measured after one hour.

The researchers found that the participants who had ingested the caffeine capsules showed significantly greater accuracy and faster speed when identifying smaller moving stimuli. Eye movement velocity and contrast sensitivity are implicated in dynamic visual acuity performance. They were also sensitive to caffeine intake. And caffeine intake was associated with a faster reaction time for horizontally moving targets.

"While we already know that caffeine increases the velocity of rapid-eye movements, we wanted to further investigate how exactly caffeine enhances visual processing and facilitates the detection of moving visual stimuli by testing dynamic visual acuity," said researcher Beatríz Redondo.

The study results suggest that caffeine intake has a positive effect on dynamic visual acuity. This may be of special relevance in real-word contexts that require accurately and rapidly detecting moving targets. Notable examples include sports, driving, and piloting.

"Our findings show that caffeine consumption can actually be helpful for a person's visual function by enhancing alertness and feelings of wakefulness," concluded Dalton. "This is especially true for those critical, everyday tasks, like driving, riding a bike or playing sports, that require us to attend to detailed information in moving objects when making decisions."

The caffeine intake used in the study is equivalent to approximately two cups of espresso coffee. I’m an avid coffee drinker and very much prefer the real thing. But it seems clear that those who prefer not to drink coffee can benefit from caffeine supplementation.

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