Mental performance can be improved by "feeding" the brain with extra oxygen or glucose, according to research published today that could have implications for the treatment of dementia.
Brain power can be increased by up to 20 per cent when people take extra supplies of either of the two basic neural fuels, the study by psychologists suggests.
Their research also found that a single dose of gingko, a herbal extract that improves blood flow, oxygenation and glucose metabolism, can improve concentration for as long as six hours.
The brain is the body's most energetic organ, consuming at least 20 per cent of its calories even when at rest. But unlike muscle cells or other organs, it is unable to store energy and needs a constant supply of glucose and oxygen in the blood.
Researchers at the Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit of the University of Northumbria say the findings could help develop treatments for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, Alzheimer's and dementia.
Their study, reported in The Psychologist magazine, found that oxygen or glucose had the biggest effect when people were set the most difficult mental tasks. Volunteers remembered up to 20 per cent more words from a list after they were given a short blast of oxygen through a face mask.
A dose of oxygen also improved performance when playing the computer game Tetris when the game was at its hardest level.
Similar results were shown when volunteers were given a glucose drink or gingko combined with ginseng before they performed arithmetic tests.
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