Veteran neuroscientists Con Stough and Matthew Pase of Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology recently created a status report on different pharmacological interventions that may help keep the our brains sharp as we age. Wray Herbert summed up their findings, published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, for huffingtonpost.com.
The scientists found bacopa and pine bark among the most promising of the thoroughly studied ingredients, including ginkgo biloba, vitamins and fish oil. Bacopa monniera, an Indian herb used as a cognitive in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, has been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, two things that could boost mental function. It also cranks up a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which is key for memory and learning. Stough and Pase gave subjects a daily dose of one bacopa extract and found a significant improvement in cognitive processing speed, as well as smaller effects on learning and memory.
The polyphenols in pine bark extract were also shown to reduce inflammation and increase brain function. One study they reviewed found the extract improved working memory and decreased oxidative stress. Another showed improvement in spatial working memory and picture recognition.
The scientists found mixed clinical results among research on ginkgo biloba and fish oil. Their lab analyzed the effects of multivitamins on cognitive performance and found improvement in one kind of verbal memory. Other large studies found mixed results.
You can listen to Stough discuss his findings on this podcast.