Brain Health & Performance

New study shows promise in brain health & performance—particularly in recovery weeks following traumatic brain injury

This study, as published in the first quarter of the European Journal of Neurology 2013, focused on sixty adults, who sustained a mild traumatic brain injury (concussion), 3–12 months prior to recruitment, and who were experiencing persistent cognitive difficulties. Researchers A. Theadoma, S. Mahona, S. Barker-Colloc, K. McPhersonb, E. Rushd, A. C. Vandale, and V. L. Feigina explored how high OPC pine bark extract could be used in patients recovering from traumatic brain injury (TBI). Because of the close relationship between oxidative stress and excitotoxicity following TBI and the ongoing neuroinflammation that can continue for months, it was theorized that high OPC pine bark extract could have a significant positive influence on recovery.

Researchers chose high OPC pine bark extract because in vitro superoxide radical scavenging assays have shown it to be a stronger antioxidant than vitamin C, trolox, catechin and grape seed extracts. Several other studies have also shown that flavonoid-rich plant extracts, particularly those containing high amounts of flavanols, for example pine bark, cocoa and grape seeds, can have beneficial effects on neuro-cognitive functions, likely mediated not through basic antioxidant action, but by influencing signalling pathways involved in neuro-inflammation, neuroplasticity and cerebrovascular blood flow.

In the course of the study, post-concussion symptoms were measured by the Rivermead Post-Concussion Symptoms Questionnaire. Total scores for all 16 items were used to determine the presence or absence of post-concussive syndrome. The main reason for not participating in the trial was due to participants falling outside of the 3–12-month post-TBI timeframe.

The results demonstrated:

The treatment effect seen in the frequency of self-reported cognitive failures suggests that there may be a beneficial effect of high OPC pine bark extract to aid in the recovery of impaired cognitive function post-TBI.

  • High OPC pine bark extract was safe and well tolerated
  • Trend and breakpoint analyses showed a significant reduction in cognitive failures after 6 weeks [mean CFQ score, 95% CI, high OPC pine bark extract versus placebo À6.9 (À10.8 to À4.1)].
  • Improvements in the frequency of self-reported cognitive failures were estimated to continue until week 11 before stabilizing.