Caffeine which is present in soft drinks has been shown to increase alertness and allays drowsiness and fatigue. The aim of this study is to investigate whether caffeine could produce a long-term effect on the synaptic transmission using extracellular recording technique in the hippocampal slices. Bath application of caffeine (100 microM) reversibly increased the slope of field excitatory postsynaptic potential (fEPSP). Forskolin (25 microM) by its own did not affect the fEPSP significantly. However, in the presence of caffeine, forskolin induced a long-term potentiation (LTP) of fEPSP. Enprofylline which has been shown to exhibit some actions like caffeine but with a low adenosine antagonistic potency did not affect the normal synaptic transmission or the effect of forskolin at a lower concentration (10 microM). However, when the concentrations were increased to 20 and 50 microM, enprofylline significantly enhanced the fEPSP slope and promoted forskolin-induced LTP. The parallel increase of fEPSP and promotion of LTP observed with enprofylline suggests that adenosine A1 antagonism is the primary mechanism behind caffeine's effect. This hypothesis was further strengthened by the finding that promotion of forskolin-induced LTP was mimicked by the non-xanthine adenosine antagonist 9-chloro-2-(furyl)[1,2,4]triazolo [1,5-c]quinazolin-5-amine (CGS 15943). The promotion of forskolin-induced LTP provides a cellular basis behind caffeine's increase in capacity for sustained intellectual performance.