Green oat (Avena sativa) extracts contain several groups of potentially psychoactive phytochemicals. Previous research has demonstrated improvements in cognitive function following a single dose of these extracts, but not following chronic supplementation. Additionally, whilst green oat extracts contain phytochemicals that may improve mood or protect against stress, for instance species-specific triterpene saponins, to date this possibility has not been examined. The current study investigated the effects of a single dose and four weeks of administration of a novel, Avena sativa herbal extract (cognitaven®) on cognitive function and mood, and changes in psychological state during a laboratory stressor. The study adopted a dose-ranging, double-blind, randomised, parallel groups design in which 132 healthy males and females (35 to 65 years) received either 430 mg, 860 mg, 1290 mg green oat extract or placebo for 29 days. Assessments of cognitive function, mood and changes in psychological state during a laboratory stressor (Observed Multitasking Stressor) were undertaken pre-dose and at 2 h and 4 h post-dose on the first (Day 1) and last days (Day 29) of supplementation. The results showed that both a single dose of 1290 mg and, to a greater extent, supplementation for four weeks with both 430 mg and 1290 mg green oat extract resulted in significantly improved performance on a computerised version of the Corsi Blocks working memory task and a multitasking task (verbal serial subtractions and computerised tracking) in comparison to placebo. After four weeks, the highest dose also decreased the physiological response to the stressor in terms of electrodermal activity. There were no treatment-related effects on mood. These results confirm the acute cognitive effects of Avena sativa extracts and are the first to demonstrate that chronic supplementation can benefit cognitive function and modulate the physiological response to a stressor.
Keywords: Avena sativa; brain; cognition; green oat extract; phytochemicals; polyphenols; stress; triterpenes; working memory.