There appears to be an absence of large-scaled clinical trials that have examined the efficacy of Ginkgo biloba extract on the neuropsychological functioning of cognitively intact older adults. The importance of such clinical research appears paramount in light of the plethora of products containing Ginkgo biloba that are currently being widely marketed to predominantly cognitively intact adults with claims of enhanced cognitive performances. The purpose of this research was to conduct the first known, large-scaled clinical trial of the efficacy of Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) on the neuropsychological functioning of cognitively intact older adults. Two hundred and sixty-two community-dwelling volunteers (both male and female) 60 years of age and older, who reported no history of dementia or significant neurocognitive impairments and obtained Mini-Mental State Examination total scores of at least 26, were examined via a 6-week, randomized, double-blind, fixed-dose, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, clinical trial. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761(n = 131; 180 mg/day) or placebo (n = 131) for 6 weeks. Efficacy measures consisted of participants' raw change in performance scores from pretreatment baseline to those obtained just prior to termination of treatment on the following standardized neuropsychological measures: Selective Reminding Test (SRT), Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III Block Design (WAIS-III BD) and Digit Symbol-Coding (WAIS-III DS) subtests, and the Wechsler Memory Scale-III Faces I (WMS-III FI) and Faces II (WMS-III FII) subtests. A subjective Follow-up Self-report Questionnaire was also administered to participants just prior to termination of the treatment phase. Analyses of covariance indicated that cognitively intact participants who received 180 mg of EGb 761 daily for 6 weeks exhibited significantly more improvement on SRT tasks involving delayed (30 min) free recall (p < 0.04) and recognition (p < 0.01) of noncontextual, auditory-verbal material, compared with the placebo controls. The EGb 761 group also demonstrated significantly greater improvement on the WMS-III FII subtest assessing delayed (30 min) recognition (p < 0.025) of visual material (i.e. human faces), compared with the placebo group. However, based on the significant difference (p < 0.03) found between the two groups' pretreatment baseline scores on the WMS-III FII, this result should be interpreted with caution. An examination of the participants' subjective ratings of their overall abilities to remember by treatment end on the Follow-up Self-report Questionnaire also revealed that significantly more (p = 0.05) older adults in the EGb 761 group rated their overall abilities to remember by treatment end as 'improved' compared with the placebo controls. Overall, the results from both objective, standardized, neuropsychological tests and a subjective, follow-up self-report questionnaire provided complementary evidence of the potential efficacy of Ginkgo biloba EGb 761 in enhancing certain neuropsychological/memory processes of cognitively intact older adults, 60 years of age and over.
Copyright 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.