The research of Professor Yun Bai and colleagues at the Third Military Medical University in China focused on the organic chemic EGCG (epigallocatechin-3 gallate), a key component of green tea, News Medical reports. While EGCG is a known antioxidant, the team believed it might also have a beneficial effect against age-related degenerative diseases.
"We proposed that EGCG can improve cognitive function by impacting the generation of neuron cells, a process known as neurogenesis," Bai told News Medical. "We focused our research on the hippocampus, the part of the brain which processes information from short-term to long-term memory."
In lab tests, the researchers found that EGCG boosts the production of neural progenitor cells. Like stem cells, these can differentiate into different kinds of cells (in this case, into neurons and other nervous system cells). Then they fed EGCG to mice (in twee little cups of green tea?). They found that the mice took less time to complete a maze than non-EGCG-enhanced mice. Overall, the results suggest that EGCG aids learning and memory by improving object recognition and spatial memory.
The research was published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
"We have shown that the organic chemical EGCG acts directly to increase the production of neural progenitor cells, both in glass tests and in mice," Bai said. "This helps us to understand the potential for EGCG, and green tea which contains it, to help combat degenerative diseases and memory loss."
That's just what the world needs -- smarter mice.