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Pycnogenol Helps Mental Performance in Students
By Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, November 30, 2011, abstracted from “Pycnogenol® supplementation improves cognitive function, attention and mental performance in students” in Panminerva Medica
When looking at ways to help improve cognitive performance, ranging from better performance on tests to staying awake for long periods of time, success has been found with prescription drugs that include methylphenidate and modafinil (1).  But with side effects that include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and nosebleeds (2, 3), natural ways to help maintain cognitive performance without side effects is needed. 
Natural ways to help with cognitive performance without having to increase dosage over time are still needed.  Now a new study (5) suggests that Pycnogenol may be a natural way to help with mental performance.
Previous research has shown that 150 mg per day of Pycnogenol for three months significantly improves cognitive performance in the elderly (6).  Building on these findings, the current study focused on 108 young, healthy college students between and age of 18 and 27.  The researchers gave 53 students 100 mg of Pycnogenol per day for 8 weeks and compared their cognitive performance with 55 control group students who were given a placebo.
Before and after the study, the students completed the CANTAB (Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery).  This is a computer-based cognitive assessment system consisting of a battery of neuropsychological tests, administered to subjects using a touch screen computer. It includes 22 tests that examine various areas of cognitive function (17).
By the end of the study, those in the Pycnogenol groups showed significant improvements in several cognitive tests compared to the placebo group.  Specifically, those in the Pycnogenol group had a 58% increase in word recall (6.2 to 9.8 words) compared to an 11% increase in the placebo group (6.9 to 7.7 words).  When they looked at times to complete a task, the Pycnogenol group saw a 12.5% decrease in time (1.889 to 1.679 seconds) compared to no insignificantchange in the placebo group (1.888 to 1.863 seconds).  Finally, when they tested the amount of time needed to arrange a row of colored balls in 5 moves, those in the placebo group had no insignificant difference (7.556 to 7.610 seconds) while those in the Pycnogenol group saw a 21% decrease (8.566 to 6.785 seconds).
What’s more, the researchers also looked at actual college exams taken by the students the study.  They found that those in the Pycnogenol group failed 7 tests out of 112 taken (6.25% failure rate) while those in the placebo group failed 9 tests out of 84 (10.71% failure rate, p < 0.024), showing a 42% lower failure rate in the Pycnogenol group.  Overall, the Pycnogenol group had 9.6% higher test scores on their college exams compared to the placebo group (26.1 vs. 23.81, with the test scores ranging from 0 to 30).
For the researchers, “This study indicates a role for Pycnogenol® to improve cognitive function in normal students.”
Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Danville, CA.  You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at www.PitchingDoc.com
1.       Husain M, Mehta MA. Cognitive enhancement by drugs in health and disease. Trends Cogn Sci 2011;15:28-36.
2.       “Methylphenidate” - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000606/
3.       “Modafinil” - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000196/
4.       Elsabagh S, Hartley DE, Ali O, Williamson EM, File SE. Differential cognitive effects of Ginkgo biloba after acute and chronic treatment in healthy young volunteers. Psychopharmacology 2005;179:437-46.
5.       Luzzi R.  Pycnogenol® supplementation improves cognitive function, attention and mental performance in students.  Panminvera Medica 2011; 53(3) Suppl 1: 75-83
6.       Ryan J, Croft K, Mori T, Wesnes K, Spong J, Downey L et al. An examination of the effects of the antioxidant Pycnogenol(R) on cognitive performance, serum lipid profile, endocrinological and oxidative stress biomarkers in an elderly population. J Psychopharmacol 2008;22:553-62.
7.       Owen AM, Sahakian BJ, Semple J, Polkey CE, Robbins TW. Visuospatial short-term recognition memory and learning after temporal lobe excisions, frontal lobe excisions or amygdalo-hippocampectomy in man. Neuropsychologia 1995;33:1-24.