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The Daily Need

I’m dreaming of a large coffee

Photo: Flickr/Zach Inglis

Too much coffee under stress can do more than just make you jittery. It can make you hallucinate songs – namely, those by Bing Crosby.

A study released this week by researchers at Melbourne, Australia’s La Trobe University measured the effects of caffeine and stress on 92 participants. Under varying stress and caffeine levels, the participants listened to white noise on headphones. They were told that among the white noise, they might hear Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas,” and when they did, to press a button. Those who consumed higher amounts of caffeine reported hearing the song more often.

However, “White Christmas” was never played.

Caffeine, which is one of the most widely used drugs in the world, has already been proven to affect both the body and the mind by stimulating the nervous system. It also has addictive qualities. Among Americans, the average caffeine consumption is about 280 milligrams per day, the equivalent of about one or two cups of coffee. See a list of caffeine content in popular beverages.

A 2009 study reported that high caffeine users, or those who consumed more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day, were three times more prone to hallucinate hearing another person’s voice when they weren’t there.

La Trobe’s Professor Simon Crowe said in a university press release that “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.”

Crowe also urges moderation when consuming caffeine: “It is apparent that the health risks of excessive caffeine use must be addressed and caution should be raised with regard to the exacerbating use of this stimulant.” No mention on the link between psychosis and hearing sleigh bells in the snow.

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