April 8, 2014
Green Tea Extract Increases The Brain’s Effective Connectivity, Boosts Cognitive Functions
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Tea, which has been cultivated for centuries, is the second most consumed beverage in the world. Of the three main types of tea — black, oolong, and green — green is known to have many healthy properties, including a high concentration of powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals in the body. Green tea is helpful in fighting against atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, many types of cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and many more, according to the University of Maryland.
A new study, from the University of Basel, reveals that green tea extract also enhances cognitive functions such as working memory. The findings, published in Psychopharmacology, suggest clinical implications for the treatment of cognitive impairments in psychiatric disorders such as dementia.
Previous research has primarily focused on the effects of green tea on cancer. Recent studies have also examined green tea's impact on the human brain, linking the tea to beneficial effects on cognitive performance. Despite all the data gathered, the mechanisms underlying the cognitive enhancements remain a mystery.
The research team of Professor Christoph Beglinger from the University of Basel collaborated with Psychiatric University Clinics Professor Stefan Borgwardt's team to uncover these mechanisms. They found that the extract from green tea increases the brain's effective connectivity, or the causal influence that one brain area exerts over another. After the admission of green tea extract, study participants performed significantly better on working memory tasks.
Before solving working memory tasks, healthy male volunteers were asked to drink a soft drink containing several grams of green tea extract. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to analyze how the extract affected the brain activity of the subjects, which showed that increased connectivity between the parietal and the frontal cortex of the brain. These findings provided positive support for the observed improvement in working memory task performance.
"Our findings suggest that green tea might increase the short-term synaptic plasticity of the brain," says Borgwardt.