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Food and health

Neural effects of green tea extract on dorsolateral prefrontal cortex



Green tea is being recognized as a beverage with potential benefits for human health and cognitive functions. In vivo studies provide preliminary evidence that green tea intake may have a positive role in improving effects on cognitive functions. We aimed to examine the neural effects of green tea extract on brain activation in humans.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging was recorded while 12 healthy volunteers performed a working memory task following administration of 250 or 500 ml of a milk whey based green tea containing soft drink or milk whey based soft drink without green tea as control in a double-blind, controlled repeated measures within-subject design with counterbalanced order of substance administration. A whole-brain analysis with a cluster-level threshold of P<0.001 (unadjusted) was followed by an a priori-defined region of interest (ROI) analysis of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) including a cluster-level threshold of P<0.05 and family-wise error (FWE) adjustment for multiple comparisons.


Whole-brain analyses revealed no significant effects after correction for multiple comparisons (FWE P<0.05). Using a ROI approach, green tea extract increased activation in the DLPFC relative to a control condition (FWE P<0.001). This neural effect was related to green tea dosage. Green tea extract was not associated with any significant attenuation in regional activation relative to control condition.


These data suggest that green tea extract may modulate brain activity in the DLPFC, a key area that mediates working memory processing in the human brain. Moreover, this is the first neuroimaging study implicating that functional neuroimaging methods provide a means of examining how green tea extract acts on the brain.

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This initiator-driven (CB) study was sponsored by the University of Basel and supported by grants from the Rivella Ltd, Rothrist, Switzerland. We would like to thank Doris Blaser for her help to prepare the manuscript.

Author Contributions

JD and CB designed the research, FH and SJB collected the data, KS provided essential materials. SJB analyzed data and performed statistical analysis. All authors wrote the paper. SJB and CB had primary responsibility for the final content.


The sponsor of the study had no role in the study design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, the writing of this report, or in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

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Correspondence to S Borgwardt.

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Borgwardt, S., Hammann, F., Scheffler, K. et al. Neural effects of green tea extract on dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Eur J Clin Nutr 66, 1187–1192 (2012).

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  • green tea
  • functional MRI
  • prefrontal cortex

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