Green Tea: Can It Boost Your Brainpower?

green tea - two cups Japanese

What You Need to Know: Researchers are reporting the first evidence that green tea extract enhances cognitive function, especially working memory.

Background: Green tea is under investigation for possible anti-cancer properties. Recently, scientists have also been researching its potential positive impacts on the human brain. While some studies have linked green tea to improved cognitive performance, the neural mechanisms underlying this cognitive enhancing effect of green tea remained unknown.

The Evidence: Researcher from the University Hospital of Basel and Prof. Stefan Borgwardt from the Psychiatric University Clinics found that green tea extract increases the brain’s effective connectivity, meaning the causal influence that one brain area exerts over another. This effect on connectivity also led to improvement in actual cognitive performance: Subjects tested significantly better for working memory tasks after the admission of green tea extract.

For the study healthy male volunteers received a soft drink containing several grams of green tea extract before they solved working memory tasks. The scientists then analyzed how this affected the brain activity of the men using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The MRI showed increased connectivity between the parietal and the frontal cortex of the brain. These neuronal findings correlated positively with improvement in task performance of the participants.

“Our findings suggest that green tea might increase the short-term synaptic plasticity of the brain,” offers Dr. Borgwardt.

My Take: Green tea consumption offers the promise of improving our working memory, via increased connectivity between the frontal and the parietal parts of our brain. This is especially intriguing as a potential tool for those with conditions such as dementia. And for those of us who are aging (a bit). I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

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References:

1. André Schmidt, Felix Hammann, Bettina Wölnerhanssen, Anne Christin Meyer-Gerspach, Jürgen Drewe, Christoph Beglinger, Stefan Borgwardt. Green tea extract enhances parieto-frontal connectivity during working memory processing. Psychopharmacology, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s00213-014-3526-1
University of Basel.

2. “Green tea extract boosts your brain power, especially the working memory, new research shows.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140407101545.htm>.

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