Researchers at AUT University are investigating the use of supplements made from New Zealand pine tree bark extract to treat traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Ongoing cognitive difficulties are common following TBI and can profoundly affect a person’s day-to-day functioning and ability to work and live independently, says Professor Valery Feigin. Director of AUT’s National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neuroscience, Feigin is leading a team of researchers looking at the effect of Enzogenol (Pinus Radiata bark extract) on the cognitive functions of a group of patients with mild TBI.
Sixty people with persistent cognitive difficulties due to TBI took part in the pilot study where they were given Enzogenol for either a six or 12 week period. Results of the pilot study have been announced at New Zealand’s first national conference on stroke and applied neuroscience.
“Every day, 90 New Zealanders sustain a brain injury, ranging from mild to severe. Acquired brain injury - including stroke and traumatic brain injury - is the leading cause of disability and death in this country costing our health system an estimated $100 million per year," says Feigin.
“Many supplements claim health benefits, however this research is one of very few evidence-based treatments. Until now, there has been a lack of effective medication for mild TBI. Other than brain exercises, there are limited treatments available to improve damage as a result of TBI.”
The aim of the pilot study was to explore the effectiveness of Enzogenol to improve verbal and working memory, information processing speed, attention span, everyday memory difficulties and post-concussive symptoms in patients three to 12 months following mild TBI. The major causes of TBI are motor vehicle crashes, sports injuries, assaults and falls, says Feigin.
Senior Research Fellow Dr Alice Theadom says that preliminary results have indicated an improvement in day-to-day cognitive functioning.
“There was a statistically significant improvement on the reporting of cognitive failures such as walking into a room and forgetting what you went in for, failure to remember names, forgetting directions on a familiar route and forgetting to respond to important correspondence.
“The pilot trial has revealed some promising findings for use of the Enzogenol supplement to improve everyday cognitive failures. We’ll now be looking at conducting a full scale clinical trial to determine the effectiveness.”
Enzogenol is a natural extract from the bark of New Zealand grown pine trees produced by ENZO Nutraceuticals using a specialised water-only extraction method. The active compounds in Enzogenol are flavonoids and other plant polyphenols with antioxidant and natural anti-inflammatory properties.
So far, other clinical research findings have shown that Enzogenol may help improve brain activities and cognitive performance, says Feigin. “We are also investigating the actual incidence of TBI in New Zealand; it’s a far greater problem than we anticipated.”