, Volume 179, Issue 2, pp 437–446 | Cite as

Differential cognitive effects of Ginkgo biloba after acute and chronic treatment in healthy young volunteers

  • Sarah ElsabaghEmail author
  • David E. Hartley
  • Osama Ali
  • Elizabeth M. Williamson
  • Sandra E. File
Original Investigation



Acute doses of Ginkgo biloba have been shown to improve attention and memory in young, healthy participants, but there has been a lack of investigation into possible effects on executive function. In addition, only one study has investigated the effects of chronic treatment in young volunteers.


This study was conducted to compare the effects of ginkgo after acute and chronic treatment on tests of attention, memory and executive function in healthy university students.


Using a placebo-controlled double-blind design, in experiment 1, 52 students were randomly allocated to receive a single dose of ginkgo (120 mg, n=26) or placebo (n=26), and were tested 4 h later. In experiment 2, 40 students were randomly allocated to receive ginkgo (120 mg/day; n=20) or placebo (n=20) for a 6-week period and were tested at baseline and after 6 weeks of treatment. In both experiments, participants underwent tests of sustained attention, episodic and working memory, mental flexibility and planning, and completed mood rating scales.


The acute dose of ginkgo significantly improved performance on the sustained-attention task and pattern-recognition memory task; however, there were no effects on working memory, planning, mental flexibility or mood. After 6 weeks of treatment, there were no significant effects of ginkgo on mood or any of the cognitive tests.


In line with the literature, after acute administration ginkgo improved performance in tests of attention and memory. However, there were no effects after 6 weeks, suggesting that tolerance develops to the effects in young, healthy participants.


Ginkgo biloba Sustained attention Episodic memory Mood Executive function Tolerance 



This work was funded by a grant from the Dunhill Medical Trust. We would like to thank Dr. R. Middleton of Lichtwer Pharma UK for the generous gift of Ginkyo and matched placebo tablets, and Yasser Khan for his assistance with testing some of the participants.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Elsabagh
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • David E. Hartley
    • 1
  • Osama Ali
    • 1
  • Elizabeth M. Williamson
    • 2
  • Sandra E. File
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychopharmacology Research Unit, Centre for Neuroscience, Hodgkin BuildingKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Centre for Pharmacognosy and PhytotherapyThe School of PharmacyLondonUK

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