Effects of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761® on cognitive control functions, mental activity of the prefrontal cortex and stress reactivity in elderly adults with subjective memory impairment - A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Objective Cognitive control as well as stress reactivity is assumed to depend on prefrontal dopamine and decline with age. Because Ginkgo biloba extract EGb761 increases prefrontal dopamine in animals, we assessed its effects on cognitive functions related to prefrontal dopamine. Methods Effects of 240-mg EGb761 daily on task-set-switching, response-inhibition, delayed response, prospective-memory, task-related fMRI-BOLD-signals and the Trier Social Stress-Test were explored in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind pilot-trial in 61 elderly volunteers with subjective memory impairment. Results Baseline-FMRI-data showed BOLD-responses in regions commonly activated by the specific tasks. Task-switch-costs decreased with EGb761 compared to placebo (ANOVA-interaction: Group × Time × Switch-Costs p = 0.018, multiple tests uncorrected), indicating improved cognitive flexibility. Go-NoGo-task reaction-times corrected for error-rates indicated a trend for improved response inhibition. No treatment effects were found for the delayed response and prospective-memory tasks and fMRI-data. A non-significant trend indicated a potentially accelerated endocrine stress-recovery. EGb761 was safe and well tolerated. Conclusion We observed indications for improved cognitive flexibility without changes in brain activation, suggesting increased processing efficiency with EGb761. Together with a trend for improved response inhibition results are compatible with mild enhancement of prefrontal dopamine. These conclusions on potential beneficial effect of EGb761 on prefrontal dopaminergic functions should be confirmed by direct measurements.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-242
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016

External IDs

PubMed 27147264
ORCID /0000-0001-9793-3859/work/142248863



  • cognitive control, dopamine, EGb 761, fMRI, ginkgo, task switch