GABA and executive functionAccording to a study published last month, participants who consumed a GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) dietary supplement demonstrated an increased ability of prioritizing planned actions.

GABA is a naturally occurring amino acid in the brain and is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS). GABA blocks nerve impulses, slowing down the activity of nerve cells and preventing them from over-firing. GABA also serves as a critical calming agent for the body, helping to combat stress and anxiety.

Oral GABA supplementation can act directly on the CNS in a peripheral aspect through the gut. There is definitely a gut-brain relationship between nutrition and the gut microbiome and how they support brain health and function. The gut and brain communicate through the nervous system, immune system, and hormones. In addition, the hypothalamus (emotional neuroendocrine control center of the brain) is outside and not protected by the blood brain barrier, so these two factors can explain how GABA affects the CNS. It is clear in the research that GABA is helpful for the treatment of anxiety as well as many case studies to demonstrate its effectiveness.

This study was the first to investigate if GABA had an effect on planning and controlling different actions. Thirty participants took 800 mg of GABA or placebo powder mixed with orange juice. The research team then had them perform a stop-change paradigm, a task that measures how fast people are in inhibiting a response when another action has to be carried out almost simultaneously.

As result, the group that consumed the GABA demonstrated enhanced planning performance. These findings provide the first evidence for a possible causal role of the GABA-ergic system in modulating performance in action cascading.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN

Source: Laura Steenbergen, Roberta Sellaro, Ann-Kathrin Stock, Christian Beste, Lorenza S. Colzato. γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration improves action selection processes: a randomised controlled trial.Scientific Reports, 2015; 5: 12770 DOI: 10.1038/srep12770

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