Australian research has found vitamin B supplementation can increase connectivity in the brain between the caudate and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) which are involved in reward processing, pleasure and motivation.
The findings, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, took a novel approach to investigate the effectiveness of Blackmores® Executive B Stress Formula by utilising MRI scans to determine how the supplementation impacted participants brain activity.
Dr Lesley Braun, Director at Blackmores Institute, explained: “We know B vitamins can be beneficial during times of stress. When we talk to people about their experience with high dose B vitamins, like Blackmores® Executive B Stress Formula, they say they feel better taking it, but they are not sure why. Now we have the MRI scans that show that it is activating brain centres associated with pleasure and motivation.”
The randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study by Swinburne University found that, following supplementation with Blackmores® Executive B Stress Formula, the functional connectivity between the right caudate, the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and the core of the default mode network (DMN) – a major resting state network comprising regions important to internal cognitive functions – was increased.
“The six-month supplementation increased functional connectivity between the PCC and right caudate for the active treatment group, while there was a significant decrease in functional connectivity between these regions for the placebo group,” the researchers reported.
“This study was the first randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial investigating the extent to which six-month supplementation with a high-B-vitamin multivitamin would affect work-related stress and PCC seed functional connectivity - chosen for its role in the default mode network - in addition to psychological and mood outcomes.
According to the study, aberrant patterns of hyper-connectivity in resting state networks, in particular the DMN, have been associated with poor psychological outcomes; suggesting that increases in connectivity between PCC and the caudate - a part of the striatum involved in reward processing and a key driver of pleasure and motivation - following high-B-vitamin multivitamin supplementation may reflect a strengthening of neurocircuitry within brain regions that are associated with reward and emotion.
The study analysed the results of 108 participants following the six-month treatment with Blackmores® Executive B Stress Formula or placebo intervention (active group female n = 31, mean age = 44.6; male: n = 23, mean age = 46.8; and in placebo group females n = 29, mean age = 42.6; male: n = 25, mean age = 44.8) and found that there were no statistically significant differences in terms of work related stress, or secondary psychological and mood outcomes between groups possibly due to the placebo effect.
However, the sub-group MRI analysis showed improved brain connectivity between the right caudate and the and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) which are involved in reward processing, pleasure and motivation.
Dr Braun explained: “While the trial showed improvements in mood, psychological and workplace stress outcomes in both the active and placebo group, the MRI results clearly show an increase in brain connectivity in the active group.
“The key take out is, those taking the supplements saw an improvement in connectivity in the areas of the brain associated with pleasure and motivation.”
The study authors recommended that future studies be designed to take into account of any placebo effect to enable conclusions on the subjective effects of vitamin B on stress.
“This study adopted a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled methodology, the results of which make a significant and novel contribution to the scientific literature regarding the impact of high-dose B vitamin supplementation on psychological stress and brain functioning.” the authors concluded.
Front. Nutr, 2019. DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2019.00156
Note: The study was funded by Blackmores who provided the Blackmores® Executive B Stress Formula supplement. Blackmores had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript or in the decision to publish the results.