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GABA Supplements May Increase Reaction Time

A recent study suggests that the food supplement GABA may enhance people’s ability to react to and prioritize changing actions. GABA stands for “gamma-aminobutyric acid.” It is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the central nervous system that blocks transmission of an impulse between nerve cells in the brain.


Participants in the study included 30 healthy adults who were given either 800 mg of GABA or a placebo consisting of 800 mg of microcrystalline cellulose. They were then all given a stop-change paradigm test, which assessed their reaction time to a changing signal. They were required to stop an ongoing response to a GO stimulus whenever a STOP or CHANGER stimulus was presented.


The researchers found that the GABA group had increased action selection response time when the stop and changes signals were presented simultaneously as well as when there was a short delay in the change signal.


They pointed out that the real-life application of a study like this could be lifesaving, as one place we experience this type of stop and go activity is in heavy traffic.


Researchers from the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on July 31, 2015, in Scientific Reports.


Previous studies suggest that GABA may help improve mood, relieve anxiety, improve sleep, and help women with premenstrual syndrome. It has also been found to help athletes increase tolerance to exercise and relieve pain caused by injuries.


GABA is not found naturally in foods but can be taken as a supplement. However, flavonoid-rich foods — such as fruits, vegetables, teas, and red wine — have been found to influence the way in which GABA works in the brain.

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