Esports supplement shows notable brain health benefits
Online gaming, aka egaming or esports, is an increasingly popular sport which requires quick reactions, executive function, memory, and fine motor skills. As such, there has been a lot of interest, research and innovation around identifying nootropics which can support gamers.
Inositol stabilized arginine silicate (ASI) has been reported to increase blood levels of arginine and nitric oxide levels while nitric oxide (NO) promotes vasodilation in peripheral tissues as well as the brain. Additionally, inositol has been reported to enhance neurotransmission and memory.
The authors of the current study therefore theorised that co-ingesting ASI and inositol may affect cognitive function and/or memory in e-sport gamers.
The purpose of this study, funded by the makers of the supplement Nutrition 21, was to determine whether ASI + I supplementation affects cognitive and executive function, and more specifically reaction time and working memory, in experienced gamers prior to and/or following a one hour gaming challenge.
The new data supports prior research on nooLVL for improving cognitive benefits for esports gamers.
Danielle Greenberg, Vice President, Scientific Affairs, Nutrition21, said: “This is our second study on nooLVL showing a range of cognitive performance benefits specifically in gamers. This is exciting for Nutrition21 since we were the first to study cognitive function in egamers.
“This latest research allows us to add new cognitive performance claims around short-term and working memory, as well as reinforce the reaction time claims from our first study.”
This double blind, placebo controlled, crossover trial enrolled 26 healthy experienced gamers (8 females and 18 males) aged between 18–40 from Texas A&M University.
The participants were randomised into the treatment or placebo group - both received stick packs of flavoured powder to be mixed with water. The treatment group received stick packs containing 1500 mg of arginine silicate, 100 mg of inositol, citric acid, natural flavor, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, silicone dioxide, and Red 40 (ASI + I, nooLVL provided by Nutrition 21, USA). The placebo stick packs contained 3g of tapioca maltodextrin, citric acid, natural flavor, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, silicone dioxide, and Red 40.
The Psychology Experiment Building Language (PEBL) test was used, including the Berg-Wisconsin card sorting task test (BCST). In this test, visual stimuli (in the form of cards) are presented with instructions to sort the cards by matching colours or designs. The test assesses reaction time and accuracy in measuring long thought, reasoning, learning, executive control, attention shifting, and impulsiveness.
The Go/No-Go test (GNG) was then administered to assess sustained attention and response control through reaction time and accuracy.
Following this, participants took the Sternberg Task Test (STT). In this, trigrams are presented one at a time with the participant identifying them as either present or absent. This test measures short-term/working memory (STM/WM) involving cognitive control processes, reaction time and accuracy.
A light tracking reaction performance test was administered using the NeuroTracker Pro on-site system, running the CORE assessment to measure perceptual-cognitive skill.
A general attention Psychomotor Vigilance Task Test (PVTT) assessed sustained attention reaction times, requiring participants to press a keyboard button in response to a randomly illuminating light on screen every few seconds.
The Cambridge Brain Sciences Reasoning and Concentration Test was used to measure core elements of cognition (i.e., short-term memory, reasoning, attention, verbal ability).
Participants first performed cognitive function and light reaction tests (Pre-Supplement) then ingested the assigned treatment, waited 15-min, and performed the cognitive function and light reaction tests again (Pre-Game) before competitively gaming for one hour, then performing the cognitive function and performance tests a final time (Post-Game).
The resulting data suggests that ASI + I improved GNG reaction time and accuracy as well as speed and reaction time of the Sternberg Test versus the placebo group. There was also evidence that Spatial Planning that assesses ability to act without forethought and sequence behaviour in an orderly fashion was improved with ASI + I.
Conversely, ASI + I had no significant effects on the Berg-Wisconsin Card Sorting test, the Psychomotor Vigilance Task Test, or the Light Tracking Reaction Test. These findings suggest the primary effects of ASI + I ingestion involve enhancing short-term and working memory, reaction time, reasoning, and concentration in experienced gamers and that gaming interventions may serve as an effective way to assess neurocognition.
The authors conclude: "Results support contentions that ingesting nutrients like ASI + I that increase blood arginine and nitric oxide, may enhance cognitive function and memory possibly by improving blood flow and oxygen availability and/or enhancing neurotransmission. However, more research is needed to determine mechanisms of action."
They add: "Additional research should further examine the effects of acute and chronic ASI + I ingestion on cognitive function, executive function, and memory in gamers. Moreover, research should examine how acute and chronic ASI + I may affect cognitive function over time in healthy younger and older populations."
Mechanism of action
Two studies have evaluated the effects of ingesting ASI and ASI + I on cognitive function. In the first study, ASI supplementation (1500 mg/day for 3- days and 14- days) significantly improved the ability to perform complex cognitive tests requiring mental flexibility, processing speed and executive functioning. In the second study, adding 100 mg of inositol to the ASI significantly improved cognitive function and accuracy in gamers after playing video games for one hour.
Increasing nitric oxide has been reported to enhance cognitive function and learning through several mechanisms including augmenting excitability of potassium channels, thereby mediating calcium-dependent activation of neuronal nitric oxide via nitrosylation of N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) and regulating pathways involved in synaptic transmission. Conversely, endothelial dysfunction, reductions in blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain and compromised NO activity have been implicated in cognitive impairment. In healthy individuals, increasing NO levels may enhance cerebral blood flow and oxygen availability in the brain, and thereby enhance cognitive function.
Sowinski, R., et al
"Effects of Inositol-Enhanced Bonded Arginine Silicate Ingestion on Cognitive and Executive Function in Gamers"