Boost Brain Power; Northumbria's Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit Is Dedicated to Conducting World-Leading Research into Examining the Ways in Which Foods Can Affect Mood, Memory and Cognition in Association with the NHS

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MILLIONS of people take herbal products every day to improve their psychological health, to calm them down, to help them sleep, to 'pep' them up or improve concentration.

It's widely believed that a number of herbal extracts improve memory and other cognitive abilities. However, claims made to market them are often not matched by evidence.

Amid all this interest and speculation about the effects of foods, supplements, and 'alternative remedies' on mood and behaviour, Northumbria researchers have been looking at foods, drinks and supplements, and testing their psychological and physiological effects on willing volunteers.

Work carried out so far includes:

Breakfast study - children from across the region's schools took part in a study which found those who started the day with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) breakfast, such as oats or All-Bran, performed better mentally than when starting the day with a high GI breakfast, like Coco-Pops.

Multi-vitamins - a recent study assessed the effects on mental performance of a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement given to healthy eight to 14-year-old children for 12 weeks. Results showed the group receiving the vitamins and minerals outperformed the group who took placebo pills on tests assessing attention or concentration.

Chewing gum - work has shown chewing gum can improve memory function - this has been replicated by other laboratories. More recent work has demonstrated anti-stress effects of gum chewing. Individuals were more alert, rated themselves as having better mood and had lower levels of a stress hormone when they chewed gum.

Effects of Ginkgo biloba - in trials, Ginko has been shown to have significant positive affects on memory, recollection and attention. …