Centre for Human Psychopharmacology

Natural substances

Explore our studies investigating the cognitive, behavioural and mood-altering effects of natural substances. 

Bacopa and Alzheimer’s patients

This study aims to determine the effects of Bacopa Monniera (bacopa) on memory, learning, attention and mood in people with Alzheimer's Dementia (AD). Research into this area is important as even small changes in people with AD can lead to dramatic improvements in quality of life and the ability to live independently.

Bacopa is a traditional Indian medicine used to combat memory decline. Growing evidence suggests that extracts from this plant can halt the progressive neurodegeneration typical of AD. The antioxidant effects of bacopa, including action as an ant-inflammatory, reduction of amyloid plaques and increased levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine may contribute to its memory-enhancing properties.

Our previous studies on bacopa have shown a positive effect on the performance of memory and information processing speed tasks.

This is a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study. It will investigate the effects of a 90–day treatment of bacopa on cognition, mood and quality of life in people with AD.

This study is currently underway.

Contact

Robyn Cockerell
e: rcockerell@swinburne.edu.au

Bacopa for inattention and hyperactivity in boys

This study is investigating the effects of the herbal extract of bacopa monnieri, sold in Australia as KeenMind®. We are hopeful that the extract will reduce hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity while aiding concentration, memory and cognitive performance in male children and adolescents with symptoms of ADHD.

During a 14–week trial, participants completed a basic IQ test, computerised cognitive tasks and mood assessments.

‚ÄčThe study was ethically approved by the Swinburne University Human Research Ethics Committee in collaboration with the Royal Children’s Hospital Research Ethics Committee. The trial has been registered with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry.

To learn more about this study see the media release, Can a natural supplement improve hyperactivity in boys?

Contact

James Kean
e: jkean@swinburne.edu.au

Can a spearmint extract improve your memory?

This study aims to test the effect of supplementation with a proprietary spearmint extract on cognitive performance, sleep and mood in healthy individuals.

Research suggests that consumption of plants within the Lamiaceae (mint) family, including lemon balm, lavender, sage and rosemary, promote cognitive function in healthy people. Particular compounds found in spearmint have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Previous trials with a spearmint extract have shown improvements in reasoning, attention, planning, memory and sleep.

We tested participants aged 50–70 in good general health. The group were given two capsules a day in the morning with breakfast for three months. Participants provided blood samples and completed cognitive testing and cardiovascular measurement.

Contact

MINT team
e: mint@swinburne.edu.au

Theanine, stress and brain activity

L-theanine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in green tea. It is also present in other tea varieties. Previous studies have shown that L-theanine promotes relaxation and reduces stress and anxiety. This study aimed to determine the effects of L-theanine on stress, mood and cognitive function.

For this trial we used a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design. We measured the effects of a single dose of L-theanine versus a placebo drink on cognitive and mood tests, along with salivary cortisol.

The study also used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to track changes in brain activity associated with L-theanine, both at rest and during the completion of a cued-attention task.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

David White
t: +61 3 9214 5341
e: dawhite@swinburne.edu.au

Combining two nutraceutical formulas

This study investigated the effects of two different nutraceutical combination formulas on mental fatigue, mood and cognitive function.

Participants attended four testing sessions over four weeks where they completed a series of cognitive and mood tests.

The trial is now complete.

Contact

Laura Masseet
t: +61 3 9214 3793
e: lmassee@swinburne.edu.au

Executive B and stress

Improving objective and subjective measures of workplace stress in a healthy adult population

This study aimed to investigate the effects of Blackmore's Executive B Stress Formula on workplace stress, mood and cognition.

Participants took Blackmore's Executive B Stress Formula or a placebo for six months. Participants attended two testing sessions to provide blood samples, completed cognitive testing and a series of health and mood questionnaires. Some participants were also invited to undergo brain imaging.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

Luke Downey
t: +61 3 9214 5871
e: ldowney@swinburne.edu.au

Fish oils and brain function

This study investigated the effects of fish oils on cognition and brain functioning, mood and cardiovascular function in middle-aged and older Australians.

Long chain omega-3 fatty acids are essential for optimal neural functioning. The human body can only produce minimal quantities of these fatty acids, so they must be incorporated into our diet. The Western diet contains very little omega-3s, which may contribute to accelerated brain ageing.

This study examined the interaction between omega-3 level sin the blood and cognitive performance and mood.

It also investigated fish oil supplementation in cohorts to assess the potential benefits associated with increasing omega-3 levels in our diet. Mechanisms of action were assessed by measuring a number of cardiovascular and biochemical indices.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

Dr Andrew Pipingas
t: +61 3 9214 5215
e: apipingas@swinburne.edu.au

Multivitamin and mineral preparations and brain activity

Studies from our centre and elsewhere have shown that multivitamin supplementation can improve mood and other aspects of cognitive performance. Professor Scholey's previous research showed how a multivitamin-mineral-guaraná combination improved performance during intense cognitive processing.

During this trial, Professor Scholey further explored the effects of acute supplementation with multivitamins, with and without guaraná, using a placebo control. Steady State Tomography and fMRI brain imaging was used to assess cognitive energy in healthy volunteers. The findings will provide further insight into the link between multivitamins and cognition.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

Andrew Scholey
t: +61 3 9214 8932
e: ascholey@swinburne.edu.au

Multivitamin supplementation, neurocognition and mood

This study aimed to investigate the effects of multivitamin supplementation on cognition and brain functioning, mood and stress in middle aged and older Australians.

Several recent studies have shown that supplementing with multinutrients may be beneficial for wellbeing, cognition and mood. However, more research is needed to assess the efficacy of multivitamins and their mechanisms of action.

This study trialed the efficacy, safety and mechanisms of action of multivitamin supplementation. Participants aged 20-50, over 50 and older individuals with subjective memory impairments were tested using cognitive, neuroimaging, biochemical, mood, general wellbeing and cardiovascular functioning measures.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

Andrew Pipingas
t: +61 3 9214 5215
e: apipingas@swinburne.edu.au

Omega-3s, hyperactivity and inattention

This study aimed to explore at the relationship between marine oil and adolescent behaviour and attention.

Neuroimaging techniques were used to track changes in neural activity. Parent-reported analysis was also used to assess changes in behavior.

A number of studies have analysed omega-3s and their interaction with the adolescent brain with mixed results. This is the first study of its kind looking at a completely unique marine oil (the New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel), its influence on neurological functioning and the possible benefits for child and adolescent behaviour, attention and neural networking.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

James Kean
t: +61 3 9214 5242
e: jkean@swinburne.edu.au

Longvida curcumin and health in older adults

Tumeric has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments. Curcumin, the compound in turmeric that gives it its bright yellow colour, is thought to be the source of these health benefits.

In recent years, curcumin has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and many other valuable properties. It has been suggested that curcumin may enhance mood and mental function, yet further research is needed to investigate these potential benefits.

This study aimed to explore the effects of a curcumin supplementation on mental function, mood and health in older adults.

Participants were aged 60–85 and some had experienced age related decline in their memory or mental function. A daily supplementation was given over four weeks and participants were tested on a range of cognitive tasks as well as mood and general health.

In a subset of participants, a second stage of this study investigated the effects of curcumin supplementation on brain activity using state-of-the-art neuroimaging techniques.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

Kate Cox
t: +61 3 9214 8168
e: kcox@swinburne.edu.au

Phospholipid intervention for cognitive ageing reversal

One of the most prominent and debilitating consequences of human ageing is the cognitive decline that impacts learning and memory. There is an increased awareness of the possibility that dietary modification can alter the course of age-related cognitive decline.

Previous research suggests that a class of lipids derived from milk called phospholipids, which include phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine, may benefit brain health, particularly during ageing.

This study aimed to identify whether a daily intake of phospholipids could be effective in improving cognition in older individuals who are experiencing memory difficulties.

Participants aged 55 and over with good general health took the supplement daily for six months. During several test sessions, researchers assessed participants' brain function, biomarkers associated with oxidated stress and inflammation, and cardiovascular health.

This trial is now complete.

Contact

e: plicar@swinburne.edu.au