Researchers at Swinburne University, in Melbourne, Australia, reviewed the evidence and compared the responses to modafinil (Provigil).
Reportedly, Panax ginseng and Bacopa monnieri have consistent acute and chronic cognitive effects, respectively.
First, the details.
Clinical studies of the neurocognitive effects of modafinil, ginseng, and bacopa were identified.
Examples of neurocognitive effects include thinking, learning, processing, or remembering information. Changes in these abilities affect the ability to work or do routine everyday tasks.
Studies undertaken on healthy humans using a double-blind, placebo-controlled design were included.
Effect sizes were calculated for outcomes showing significant positive and negative effects of treatment over placebo.
In statistics, “effect size” is a measure of the strength of a phenomenon (eg, the relationship between 2 variables.
And, the results.
Highest effect sizes for cognitive outcomes
0.77 for modafinil (visual-spatial memory accuracy)
0.86 for ginseng (simple reaction time)
0.95 for bacopa (delayed word recall)
The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “These data confirm that neurocognitive enhancement from well characterized nutraceuticals can produce cognition enhancing effects of similar magnitude to those from pharmaceutical interventions.”
This report is important because research in cognitive aspects of aging (60 to 90 year-olds) has identified consistent deficits in reasoning and decision-making, spatial abilities, perceptual-motor and cognitive speed, and memory.
Studies of aged populations have even defined the time-course of this cognitive deterioration. Factual knowledge tends to remain intact until late aging, whereas speed, information processing, and working memory are more sensitive to decline from age 60.
The authors would like to see more studies to confirm their findings. Considering the consequences to a burgeoning aging population, the role of supplementation with nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals capable of ameliorating the neurocognitive changes associated with age is a vital area of research.
John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.