There is increased interest in methods of improving cognitive performance. Traditionally, the field has focused on the effects of so-called nootropics (cognitive enhancement pharmaceuticals or nutraceuticals) in those with impairment in cognition such as age-related decline, or neurodegenerative diseases. In recent years, the field of cognition enhancement has begun to focus on reducing stress-induced cognitive performance decline.
In healthy individuals, stressors such as prolonged periods of demanding cognitive activity, physical activity, mental fatigue and workload stress, can trigger changes in the nervous system and affect mental activities such as motivation and attention [1-3]. These stressors can lead to decline in performance and difficulties maintaining attention on a task .
Many investigators have researched nootropics that may improve cognitive performance through modulating different aspects of the central nervous system . Only recently, the focus has shifted to the mechanism by which a nootropic could reduce stress-induced cognitive impairment.
The molecular pathways involved in stress-induced cognitive impairment remain difficult to identify, therefore, it is of great importance to determine the biological mechanism to help determine the optimal nutraceutical/nutritional approach. Preventing stress induce cognitive impairment through nootropic supplementation can be a realistic and natural way to improve cognitive performance.
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Continuous aerobic exercise (stress-induced model) has been positively associated with cognitive function and brain activity [1-4]. The physiological stress of endurance running has been linked with changes in brain-activity in the part of the cortex associated with impaired cognitive performance and mental fatigue [5-6].
We hypothesized that prolonged bouts of stress, such as aerobic exercise could activate pathways associated in stress-induced cognitive impairment. Endurance activity such as long-distance running would be a great model to attempt to unravel factors involved in stress-induce cognitive decline.
In a recent study supported by the NRC-IRAP, OCE, and NSERC in collaboration with Carleton University, Staterra used a mechanistic stress-induced model (steady state physical exertion) to distinguish changes in blood amino acids levels. This innovative technique can detect amino acids patterns in responses to stress.
Under normal conditions, blood concentration of individual amino acids remains at a relatively constant threshold level  . If fluctuations in amino acids occur, such as during physical activity or in the case of mental fatigue, the body will attempt to correct this metabolic shift through muscle tissue breakdown since skeletal muscle is the only substantial storage for body amino acids [8, 34].
It is becoming very apparent that the plasma level of amino acids can show characteristic changes under various physiological conditions, and could be a factor in stress-induced cognitive decline.
Thirty-four male and female participants between 18-45 years of age performed an 18 km run on a 400 m track, where dried blood spots (DBS) were collected before the run, at 6, 12, and 18 km, and 30 min post recovery. Fasted blood samples were also collected the morning of the trial and 24 hours later. DBS samples were analysed by Carleton University for several amino acids through mass-spectrometry.
Amino acid analysis identified potential targets and more specifically a kinetic profile of amino acids during steady-state physical exertion linked to pathways related to stress. The kinetic profile of amino acids in this model are linked to various neuro-molecular pathways involved in cognition (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Stress-induced model. A novel mass spectrometry method developed to examine 22 amino acids extracted from dried blood samples of endurance athletes at set intervals over the course of a long-distance run shows a distinct pattern in 5 amino acids: glutamic acid, taurine, phenylalanine, tryptophan and tyrosine.
This unique study looked at amino acid kinetic patterns in healthy men and women recruited from the general population. MindGain was developed from information gathered from this study. Unlike the vast majority of supplements on the market, MindGain was developed by determining which amino acids were physiologically altered by stress.
The novel findings of this study show that stress triggers changes in amino acids and these changes have a specific kinetic profile that is statistically common amongst men and women and across the studied age range.
By analyzing the clusters of amino acids and their prominent role in neuro-molecular pathways, we identified significant kinetic patterns in neuro-molecular pathways related to cognitive functioning.
These pathways relate to:
- Neurotransmitter production
- Mitochondrial health
MindGain ingestion leads to improvement in a multitasking task. Repetitive multitasking can trigger a stress induced cognitive decline.
As humans, we believe we multitask effectively, however, research shows that we are not wired to rapidly switch between tasks, and even with fairly long training, we cannot overcome the difficulty of multitasking .
In fact, the more you multitask, the less you are able to perform, concentrate, and learn. Daily and repetitive multitasking can affect mood, cognitive performance and stress levels .
During a recent market research study, MindGain was shown to improve multitasking efficacy in 29 healthy and active men and women with an average age of 34. To determine the costs of mental ‘‘juggling’’, a task-switching paradigm popular with cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists was conducted .
Task-switching paradigms are routinely used to investigate aspects of cognitive control related to the updating, representation, and maintenance of frequently changing task rules.
The cued-task switching paradigm used in this market research is a common variant of the task-switching paradigm, in which the relevant task is signaled via an advance cue thereby providing a measure of cognitive flexibility [11-12]. An example of this test is used in Dr. Delphie Dugal-Tessier’s TEDx talk titled: “The Brain Hack to Get Your Life Back”.
By comparing how long it takes to switch between different tasks, a time cost ("task-switch cost”) can be calculated. Although task switch cost may be relatively small, it can add up to a large amount when people switch tasks repeatedly, thus causing mental blocks and decrease in productivity [13-15].
Those taking MindGain achieved a significant 50% decrease in the time it takes to switch from task to task. Task-switch cost is an indication of cognitive flexibility (Figure 2).
MindGain decreases task-switch cost. Mean switching cost between baseline and 60 min after ingestion of MindGain,
Asterisk indicates significance (* p< 0.05) effect of MindGain on mean to baseline. Vertical capped lines atop bars indicates standard error of the mean.
Data analysed as a paired two-tailed sample t-test.
In addition, during the MindGain portion of the cued-task switch challenge, participants improved overall reaction time by an impressive 8% (Figure 3). The multitasking paradigm used in this study had an average accuracy rate of 91%, and with MindGain, participants were still able to improve their accuracy by 2% (Figure 4).
A single dose can improve cognitive flexibility ability across the board within 40 minutes of MindGain supplementation.
MindGain improves accuracy. Percentage of correct responses during multitag task following ingestion of MindGain indicates significance (* p< 0.05) effect of MindGain on mean to baseline. Vertical capped lines atop bars indicates standard error of the mean
Data analysed as a paired two-tailed sample t-test.
These results reflect the literature on amino acids involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. For example, it is broadly studied and accepted that the catecholamine system, and more specifically dopamine, influences cognitive flexibility, in healthy young adults as well as a healthy aging population [16-24].
Supplementation with the amino acid tyrosine, the precursor of dopamine, has been shown to improve performance in challenging tasks related to the catecholamine pathway such as multitasking and working memory [25-33].
This market research agrees with the scientific literature and strongly indicates that certain amino acids, like tyrosine, play a role in cognitive performance. MindGain goes one step further to incorporate the nutritional constituents needed to mitigate stress response, enhance focus and cognitive performance.
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