There is an increasing interest among nutritional researchers to perform lifestyle and nutritional intervention studies in a home setting instead of testing subjects in a clinical unit. The term used in other disciplines is ‘ecological validity’ stressing a realistic situation. This becomes more and more feasible because devices and self-tests that enable such studies are more commonly available. Here, we present such a study in which we reproduced the effect of caffeine on attention and alertness in an at-home setting.
The study was aimed to reproduce the effect of caffeine on attention and alertness using a Web-based study environment of subjects, at home, performing different Web-based cognition tests.
The study was designed as a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study. Subjects were provided with coffee sachets (2 with and 2 without caffeine). They were also provided with a written instruction of the test days. Healthy volunteers consumed a cup of coffee after an overnight fast. Each intervention was repeated once. Before and 1 hour after coffee consumption subjects performed Web-based cognitive performance tests at home, which measured alertness and attention, established by 3 computerized tests provided by QuantifiedMind. Each test was performed for 5 minutes.
Web-based recruitment was fast and efficient. Within 2 weeks, 102 subjects applied, of whom 70 were eligible. Of the 66 subjects who started the study, 53 completed all 4 test sessions (80%), indicating that they were able to perform the do it yourself tests, at home, correctly. The Go-No Go cognition test performed at home showed the same significant improvement in reaction time with caffeine as found in controlled studies in a metabolic ward ( P=.02). For coding and N-back the second block was performed approximately 10% faster. No effect was seen on correctness.
The study showed that the effects of caffeine consumption on a cognition test in an at-home setting revealed similar results as in a controlled setting. The Go-No Go test applied showed improved results after caffeine intake, similar as seen in clinical trials. This type of study is a fast, reliable, economical, and easy way to demonstrate effectiveness of a supplement and is rapidly becoming a viable alternative for the classical randomized control trial to evaluate life style and nutritional interventions.