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Similar doses of caffeine have been shown to produce either anxiolytic or anxiogenic effects in rats. The reasons for these conflicting results are not known. We hypothesized that food deprivation stress interacts with the stimulant effects of caffeine to increase anxiety-like behavior. We tested 32 female Sprague Dawley rats in a dim open field for 10 min. Half of the animals were food deprived for 24 h and injected (intraperitoneal) with caffeine (30 mg/kg; n=7) or deionized water (n=8) 20 min before the open field test. The other half was nondeprived and injected with caffeine (30 mg/kg; n=8) or deionized water (n=9). Results showed that nondeprived rats injected with caffeine moved longer distances and at a greater speed in the periphery and moved longer distances and spent more time in the center than rats treated with vehicle, indicative of motor-activating and/or anxiolytic effects of caffeine. Rats that were food deprived and injected with caffeine moved longer distances in the center and tended to spend more time there, indicative of anxiolysis. We conclude that caffeine had two effects on behavior, motor activation and a reduction of anxiety, and that food deprivation separated these effects.