Previous studies have shown the health benefits of green tea, specifically for cognitive development, but the exact reasons why were unclear. However, a new imaging study suggests that green tea appears to boost memory by enhancing functional brain connectivity.
The study, led by Stefan Borgwardt, MD, PhD, from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Basel, Switzerland, suggests that drinking green tea can improve memory performance, which could have implications on how neuropsychiatric disorders are treated. This is “the first evidence for the putative beneficial effect of green tea on cognitive functioning, in particular, on working memory processing at the neural system level by suggesting changes in short-term plasticity of parieto-frontal brain connections,” the investigators write.
While the benefits for memory function were known, researchers wanted to determine the neural mechanisms underlying these putative benefits. For the study, researchers gave 12 healthy male volunteers a milk whey–based soft drink containing 27.5 grams of green tea extract or a similar drink without green tea. Participants were then given working memory tasks while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Results showed increased connectivity between the parietal and the frontal cortex of the brain with the green tea extract, which correlates positively to improvement in task performance. “Our findings suggest that green tea might increase the short-term synaptic plasticity of the brain,” Dr. Borgwardt said in a statement. “Modeling effective connectivity among frontal and parietal brain regions during working memory processing might help to assess the efficacy of green tea for the treatment of cognitive impairments in neuropsychiatric disorders such as dementia,” they conclude.