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. 2009 Jun;22(1):44-51.
doi: 10.1007/s10548-008-0068-z. Epub 2008 Oct 9.

The Effects of L-theanine on Alpha-Band Oscillatory Brain Activity During a Visuo-Spatial Attention Task

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The Effects of L-theanine on Alpha-Band Oscillatory Brain Activity During a Visuo-Spatial Attention Task

Manuel Gomez-Ramirez et al. Brain Topogr. .

Abstract

Background/Objectives Ingestion of the non-proteinic amino acid L-theanine (gamma-glutamylethylamide) has been shown to influence oscillatory brain activity in the alpha band (8-14 Hz) in humans during resting electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings and also during cognitive task performance. We have previously shown that ingestion of a 250-mg dose of L-theanine significantly reduced tonic (background) alpha power during a demanding intersensory (auditory-visual) attentional cueing task. Further, cue-related phasic changes in alpha power, indexing the shorter-term anticipatory biasing of attention between modalities, were stronger on L-theanine compared to placebo. This form of cue-contingent phasic alpha activity is also known to index attentional biasing within visual space. Specifically, when a relevant location is pre-cued, anticipatory alpha power increases contralateral to the location to be ignored. Here we investigate whether the effects of L-theanine on tonic and phasic alpha activity, found previously during intersensory attentional deployment, occur also during a visuospatial task. Subjects/Methods 168-channel EEG data were recorded from thirteen neurologically normal individuals while engaged in a highly demanding visuo-spatial attention task. Participants underwent testing on two separate days, ingesting either a 250-mg colorless and tasteless solution of L-theanine mixed with water, or a water-based solution placebo on each day in counterbalanced order. We compared the alpha-band activity when subjects ingested L-Theanine vs. Placebo. Results We found a significant reduction in tonic alpha for the L-theanine treatment compared to placebo, which was accompanied by a shift in scalp topography, indicative of treatment-related changes in the neural generators of oscillatory alpha activity. However, L-theanine did not measurably affect cue-related anticipatory alpha effects. Conclusions This pattern of results implies that L-theanine plays a more general role in attentional processing, facilitating longer-lasting processes responsible for sustaining attention across the timeframe of a difficult task, rather than affecting specific moment-to-moment phasic deployment processes.

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