Comparative modes of action of the major cognition-facilitating nutraceuticals

In this context, it is interesting to compare the mechanism of action of Bacopa monnieri with that of other plant extracts and compounds that possess neuropharmacological activity such as Ginkgo biloba and the well-known, brain cell nutrient, phosphatidylserine. Ginkgo possesses efficacy in alleviating disturbances of the central nervous system of both the primary degenerative type (early stages of degenerative dementia) and of vascular origin. Several fractions of Ginkgo biloba extract have been proven to be pharmacologically active. They function through two major mechanisms:

  • Improvement of cerebral circulation, a function related to the anti-ischemic activity of the extract. Thus, patients suffering from CNS insufficiency states or peripheral vascular and neurosensory disorders benefit
  • The extract furnishes a protective effect on neural tissue via free radical scavenging, increased energy metabolism or through inhibition of neurotransmitter degrading enzymes

Both these mechanisms indirectly contribute to enhance alertness, awareness, and cognition. However, direct effects on retention and memory are not indicated.

The well-known, brain cell nutrient, phosphatidylserine, is a phospholipid that forms one of the large “lipid” molecules that hold the other large molecules in the cell’s membrane systems together. The cell membrane plays a vital role in the entry of nutrients into the cell, the exit of waste products, inter-cell communications, ion transport, and cell movement. Phosphatidylserine is a vital part of the cell membrane that helps to attenuate these functions, thereby helping to maintain the cell’s internal environment, enhancing signal transduction mediated through protein kinase C and adenylate cyclase and promoting secretory vesicle release, a process essential for the release of neurotransmitters. All these effects contribute to phosphatidylserine’s protective effect on the hippocampus, the seat of memory. The loss of dendrite connections, a normal occurrence of advanced age, is thereby prevented. Thus, phosphatidylserine indirectly affects memory.