Effects of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761® on cognitive control functions, mental activity of the prefrontal cortex and stress reactivity in elderly adults with subjective memory impairment - a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial

Hum Psychopharmacol. 2016 May;31(3):227-42. doi: 10.1002/hup.2534.


Objective: Cognitive control as well as stress reactivity is assumed to depend on prefrontal dopamine and decline with age. Because Ginkgo biloba extract EGb761 increases prefrontal dopamine in animals, we assessed its effects on cognitive functions related to prefrontal dopamine.

Methods: Effects of 240-mg EGb761 daily on task-set-switching, response-inhibition, delayed response, prospective-memory, task-related fMRI-BOLD-signals and the Trier Social Stress-Test were explored in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind pilot-trial in 61 elderly volunteers with subjective memory impairment.

Results: Baseline-FMRI-data showed BOLD-responses in regions commonly activated by the specific tasks. Task-switch-costs decreased with EGb761 compared to placebo (ANOVA-interaction: Group × Time × Switch-Costs p = 0.018, multiple tests uncorrected), indicating improved cognitive flexibility. Go-NoGo-task reaction-times corrected for error-rates indicated a trend for improved response inhibition. No treatment effects were found for the delayed response and prospective-memory tasks and fMRI-data. A non-significant trend indicated a potentially accelerated endocrine stress-recovery. EGb761 was safe and well tolerated.

Conclusion: We observed indications for improved cognitive flexibility without changes in brain activation, suggesting increased processing efficiency with EGb761. Together with a trend for improved response inhibition results are compatible with mild enhancement of prefrontal dopamine. These conclusions on potential beneficial effect of EGb761 on prefrontal dopaminergic functions should be confirmed by direct measurements. © 2016 The Authors. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: EGb 761; cognitive control; dopamine; fMRI; ginkgo; task switch.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Stress, Psychological / drug therapy


  • Plant Extracts
  • Ginkgo biloba extract
  • Dopamine