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The Campus Coffee Shop

Caffeine Conundrums

Co Authors:

Wendy Heck-Grillo
Department of Biology
North Carolina Central University

Andrea Novicki
Center for Instructional Technology
Duke University

Brian Rybarczyk
Graduate School
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Since caffeine is a widely used substance, especially by college age students, this case on the effects of caffeine on the human body serves as a real-world connection to many students’ lives. The case is divided into sections covering background information on caffeine, cell biology and signal transduction, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular effects, and addiction/withdrawal. The case was designed so that a section can be used alone or in combination with other sections, as dictated by topic/curriculum needs. It would be appropriate for use in a variety of science and health related courses, including anatomy and physiology, disease related courses, genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and neuroscience.

  • Identify sources of caffeine in foods and drinks.
  • Describe the chemical structure of caffeine and general physiological effects of caffeine consumption.
  • Explain which molecules in the nervous system interact with caffeine.
  • Determine the relationship between caffeine consumption and the incidence of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Hypothesize biological explanations for the correlation between caffeine and Parkinson’s.
  • Explain the molecular basis of changes in blood pressure in response to caffeine.
  • Determine potential outcomes of interactions between caffeine and catecholamine signaling pathways.
  • Identify symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.
  • Differentiate between drug dependence and drug addiction, and categorize caffeine into one of these states.
  • Explain how adenosine and dopamine contribute to caffeine dependence or addiction.
Keywords: Caffeine; receptor function; adenosine receptor; signal transduction; cell signaling; Parkinson's disease; neurotransmitters; vasoconstriction; catecholamine; blood pressure; substance use; caffeine addiction; caffeine withdrawal; experimental design
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted, Jig-Saw
Language: English
Subject Headings: Cell Biology   Molecular Biology   Biochemistry   Physiology   Neuroscience   Genetics / Heredity  
Date Posted: 09/28/05
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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