Rationale: Chronic administration of extracts from the leaves of the tree Ginkgo biloba is known to improve aspects of cognitive performance. However, little is known about the effects of acute doses of Ginkgo on coherent cognitive domains. Recent factor analysis of test measures from subtasks of the Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) computerised assessment battery has revealed that four primary cognitive 'factors' corresponding to speed of attention, accuracy of attention, speed of memory and quality of memory can be useful to describe cognitive function changes.
Objective: The present study aimed at assessing whether acute administration of Ginkgo biloba had any consistent effect on the four CDR factors.
Methods: The study utilised a placebo-controlled, multi-dose, double-blind, balanced, crossover design. Twenty participants received 120 mg, 240 mg and 360 mg of a standardised extract of Ginkgo (GK501, Pharmaton, SA) or a matching placebo. Cognitive performance was assessed using the CDR computerised test battery immediately prior to dosing and at 1, 2.5, 4 and 6 h thereafter. The primary outcome measures were the four aspects of cognitive performance, which have previously been derived by factor analysis of CDR subtests.
Results: Compared with the placebo, administration of Ginkgo produced a number of significant changes on the performance measures. The most striking of these was a dose-dependent improvement of the 'speed of attention' factor following both 240 mg and 360 mg of the extract, which was evident at 2.5 h and was still present at 6 h. Additionally, there were a number of time- and dose-specific changes (both positive and negative) in performance of the other factors.
Conclusions: We conclude that acute administration of Ginkgo biloba is capable of producing a sustained improvement in attention in healthy young volunteers.