Caffeine, standard treatment for apnea of prematurity, improves brainstem auditory processing. We hypothesized that caffeine also improves cortical differentiation of complex speech sounds. We used event-related potential methodology to measure responses to speech-sound contrasts in 45 intensive care neonates, stratified by cumulative exposure as no-, low-, and high-caffeine groups. Sound differentiation in the low-caffeine group and near-term no-caffeine infants was similar with repeated measures analysis of variance controlling for gestational and postnatal age. However, a generalized estimating equation approach demonstrated that, at equivalent postnatal age, differentiation was reduced in the high-caffeine (gestational age 25 weeks) compared to the low-caffeine group (gestational age 28 weeks), reflecting the importance of maturity at birth (Z = 2.77, P