Oxygen administration selectively enhances cognitive performance in healthy young adults: a placebo-controlled double-blind crossover study

Research paper by Mark C. Moss, A. B. Scholey, Keith Wesnes

Indexed on: 01 Jul '98Published on: 01 Jul '98Published in: Psychopharmacology


It was recently demonstrated that oxygen administration can improve performance on a simple word recall task in healthy young adults. This study was aimed at determining the impact of various durations of oxygen administration on a wider range of cognitive measures. This was achieved using the Cognitive Drug Research computerised test battery, and employing a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover design. Over a period of 7 weeks, 20 participants were trained and subsequently assessed on the test battery under several durations of oxygen inhalation; air administered in an identical fashion served as a control. The results provided support for our earlier work in that increases were found in both immediate and delayed word recall. In addition, oxygen administration significantly improved performance on several measures of attention and vigilance. Simple reaction time, choice reaction time, digit vigilance reaction time and picture recognition reaction time were improved in a manner which depended on the duration of oxygen inspired. With the exception of word recall, no significant improvements were found for any measure of accuracy, nor were word recognition, digit memory scanning, or spatial memory improved. These results are discussed in the context of stages of information processing and are consistent with the hypothesis that cognitive performance is “fuel-limited” and can be differentially augmented by increasing the availability of the brain’s metabolic resources.