Coffee, that glorious liquid stimulant without which most of the workaday world would be reduced to an army of yawning homunculi, has some well-known negative side effects. It can make you jittery; spur you to jabber annoyingly at your cubicle mates; and perhaps encourage greater productivity than your boss actually expects. But a new study out of Australia asserts that caffeine intake could have bad consequences of an entirely different order.
Researchers at La Trobe University are claiming that even modest levels of caffeinated-coffee consumption can induce auditory hallucinations.
"There is a link between high levels of stress and psychosis, and caffeine was found to correlate with hallucination proneness. The combination of caffeine and stress affect the likelihood of an individual experiencing a psychosis-like symptom," says Professor Simon Crowe.
The study involved feeding people coffee and then having them listen to white noise piped in through earphones. The participants were asked to hit a buzzer every time they perceived the sound of Bing Crosby's "White Christmas." Those who consumed the equivalent of a couple cups of coffee were reportedly more likely to do so. It appears, in short, that the methods of coffee addicts are... unsound.
Okay, listen. Before you switch to decaf or commit yourself to the nearest psychiatric hospital, it's worth noting that this study's methodology raises some questions. The self-reported detection of Crosby tunes in a cloud of white noise is perhaps more easily explained as the result of placebo-like suggestibility -- the subjects were asked to identify that song specifically -- rather than active "hallucination." And it strains credulity to think that use of a substance that has fueled human creativity and industry for the past 200 years correlates strongly with psychosis.
Still worried? Put your mind at ease. A disembodied voice similar to Bing Crosby's has just privately informed us that our logic is unassailable.
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