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New Study Suggests Lion's Mane Can Improve Cognitive Function in Young Adults
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New Study Suggests Lion's Mane Can Improve Cognitive Function in Young Adults

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
November 30, 2023
4 min

Lion’s Mane mushrooms, renowned for their brain-enhancing properties, have primarily been studied in older populations or those with neurological impairments. However, a recent study has taken a different route by exploring how this remarkable mushroom impacts the cognitive ability and mood of healthy young adults. This new research expands our understanding of Lion’s Mane’s potential as a natural cognitive booster for a variety of age groups and health conditions.

Understanding Lion’s Mane mushrooms

Lion’s Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are an edible fungus known for their distinct appearance of white flesh and dangling spines. The mushroom has been used throughout Asia for centuries for its medicinal properties, promoting overall health and longevity. Modern medicine has begun to explore these properties more deeply through a multitude of studies and clinical trials. Scientific findings suggest that Lion’s Mane may have neuroprotective effects, which can support brain health, stimulate nerve growth, and enhance memory. 

Lion’s Mane mushrooms have two unique compounds called hericenones and erinacines, which are thought to stimulate the growth of brain cells (1). This feature of Lion’s Mane has led to multiple studies examining how the mushroom could affect diseases related to cognitive impairment and neurological damage like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (2).

These trials have found promising evidence that Lion’s Mane can help mitigate cognitive decline in older populations, especially in those already experiencing some form of neurodegeneration. However, most of these studies have focused primarily on older individuals or those with existing cognitive impairments, leading to a gap in comprehending how Lion’s Mane could impact younger individuals.

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Younger demographics also face cognitive challenges related to attention span, stress management, learning, and memory. Although the potential neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing effects of Lion’s Mane could benefit younger patients, the lack of targeted studies limits our specific knowledge on how the mushroom impacts the young and healthy.

Nonetheless, as interest in cognitive enhancement and natural nootropic supplements continues to rise, research such as this study is vital to our understanding of how substances like Lion’s Mane can benefit a more varied population.

Study overview

The study, published in October, was a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind research trial to ensure unbiased and reliable results. Researchers utilized a sample of 43 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 45, with a mean age of around 26. Each participant was given a Lion’s Mane mushroom supplement or a placebo without knowing which treatment they were receiving. For 28 days, the participants took 1.8 grams of Lion’s Mane daily. The dosage was calculated as an effective yet safe dose, which has been used in similar previous studies. The study’s relatively short duration was meant to observe both the immediate (acute) and ongoing (chronic) effects of the supplementation. 

The study’s primary focus was to assess how Lion’s Mane impacted mood and cognitive function. Before and after treatment, participants underwent several cognitive function tests, primarily the Stroop task, a well-established psychological assessment that evaluates processing speed, attention, and cognitive flexibility. Participants also underwent self-reported assessments to measure their subjective feelings of stress and overall mood.

Key findings and analysis

The overall results of the study found that the Lion’s Mane mushroom supplementation had a notable effect on conative function, especially in enhancing processing speed as measured by the Stroop task. Only 60 minutes after a single dose of Lion’s Mane, participants saw a substantial improvement in their Stroop task performance, indicating that the supplement may have immediate neurocognitive benefits that enhance the brain’s ability to process conflicting information more rapidly.

Additionally, the study revealed a trend towards lower stress levels following the 28 days of consistent supplementation. Though the results related to stress reduction did not reach statistical significance at the commonly accepted threshold, many participants noted significantly lower scores in subjective stress. The findings suggest that continued use of Lion’s Mane supplementation could have a cumulative impact on reducing stress and contributing to increased emotional well-being (3).

As promising as the results are, it’s important to note the study’s limitations, particularly its relatively small sample size. Further research may be needed to determine more definite results.

Future implications for cognitive and mental health 

The findings from this study open up more exciting possibilities for the future of Lion’s Mane in treating and boosting cognitive function. The significant improvements in cognitive functioning found in the study suggest that Lion’s Mane may be a beneficial supplement for those looking to improve their mental agility and processing speed. The fast-paced lifestyle that results from modern society has exacerbated cognitive challenges such as memory loss and difficulty with concentration. 

A 2015 press release from the American Psychological Association found that Millenials report increasing stress more than other generations, with 36% reporting more stress within the past year. Factors that contribute to this stress include work and money worries.

Furthermore, studies have found that concentration disorders are prevalent in adulthood, especially in young adults. One major Dutch study by the Network for Health Research in Disasters stated a 24% increase in doctor’s visits related to problems with memory and concentration in young adults aged 25 and up.

With statistics such as these on the rise, we must find a solution to treat and prevent cognitive issues. Further research into the efficacy of Lion’s Mane for cognitive and mental health management could bring groundbreaking discoveries into how we can treat brain health beyond cognitive impairments through a more holistic approach.

References

  1. Phan, Chia-Wei, Guan-Serm Lee, Sok-Lai Hong, Yuin-Teng Wong, Robert Brkljača, Sylvia Urban, Sri Nurestri Abd Malek, and Vikineswary Sabaratnam. 2014. “Hericium Erinaceus (Bull.: Fr) Pers. Cultivated under Tropical Conditions: Isolation of Hericenones and Demonstration of NGF-Mediated Neurite Outgrowth in PC12 Cells via MEK/ERK and PI3K-Akt Signaling Pathways.” Food Funct. 5 (12): 3160–69. https://doi.org/10.1039/c4fo00452c.
  2. Mori, Koichiro, Satoshi Inatomi, Kenzi Ouchi, Yoshihito Azumi, and Takashi Tuchida. 2009. “Improving Effects of the Mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium Erinaceus) on Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” Phytotherapy Research 23 (3): 367–72. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.2634.
  3. Docherty, Sarah, Faye L Doughty, and Ellen F Smith. 2023. “The Acute and Chronic Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplementation on Cognitive Function, Stress and Mood in Young Adults: A Double-Blind, Parallel Groups, Pilot Study.” Nutrients 15 (22): 4842–42. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15224842.

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science
Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

Table Of Contents

1
Understanding Lion’s Mane mushrooms
2
Study overview
3
Key findings and analysis
4
Future implications for cognitive and mental health 
5
References

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