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Boost Reaction Time: Matcha Green Tea for Reflex, Focus, and Attention

Nicholas Noble | November 16, 2020

Being able to process and make a decision both physically and cognitively is part of what makes the human brain so powerful.

Being able to react quickly, yet appropriately can mean the difference for your success, and even your safety.

Whether being asked a question, or being on your A-game in a competitive sport, how we react ultimately drives a lot of the experiences we have. Therefore, the inquiry of boosting one’s reaction time is a popular one.

Science of Faster and More Accurate Reflexes 

However – it’s not just about speed. The prospect of improving reactivity has just as much to do with a faster decision as it does with a more accurately calculated (level-headed) one, too.

And although ‘reaction’ may be thought of as a whole-body concert, here we focus on a neurological basis of how anyone may be able to give themselves an edge in how they react.

Factors that Affect Reaction Time: How Green Tea may Help

Here we include how (and why) Japanese green teas offer their natural neuromodulating compounds to the equation.

  • We also touch on why those adaptogenic compounds may have positive effects in certain cognitive disorders where it’s reported that reactivity in general is impacted, such as: ADHD, anxiety, and depression.

Of course – not to pigeonhole the complexity of mind-body – but here we focus how decision occurs in the brain, and why Japanese green tea might have just the right composition to positively influence your reactivity and overall brain health.

Adaptogenic Reaction Time and Mental Focus

In light that it may be both advantageous to hasten reactivity, as well as to better control it, any natural approach should be sound to both.

Starting first with when it may be wise to pursue a faster reaction time, at least one obvious case being competitive sports; from football to gaming, it's clear that processing information needs to happen fast.

Reaction Time Studies: L-theanine and More

Japanese green tea offers at least three (3) primary constituents which synergize for a faster reaction and are not otherwise together in nature.

One source reviewing the cognitive benefits of green tea noted the harmony of naturally occurring caffeine, L-theanine, and those polyphenol catechins like EGCG.

Researchers alluded that this so-called 'Nootropic Trifecta' forms a psychoactive effect on memory, attention, and overall reaction time [1].

Particularly relevant for any sports requiring visual attention, and extending to practical daily uses such as driving or any focus-based task:

  • The authors expressed that the adaptive properties of these 3 Japanese green tea constituents delivered increased accuracy of rapid visual information processing in human subjects [1].

Improving Attention Deficits: Mood and Cognition Benefits Japanese Tea

Furthermore, similar research found that daily enjoyment of green tea, like that of Japanese matcha, had long-term benefits in mood, information processing, memory, and cognition – underscoring adaptogenic benefits [2].

It’s noteworthy how said findings were found unique to whole-consumption of green tea (e.g. matcha), rather than any individually isolated constituents.

  • Sustained focus and attention were reported, such as increased alpha-waves in the brain, and fueled by a synergy from caffeine and L-theanine – unlike that of either compound alone [1].

Japanese Green Tea Polyphenols and Focus Brain-waves

Daily green tea may further underlie positive associations between mood and reaction; polyphenols in green tea were reported to improve alpha, beta, and theta waves in the brain [3].

  • Related: The same polyphenols may influence brain health via the gut-brain axis.

It’s suspected that L-theanine, caffeine, and EGCG from green tea act in reinforcement to one another for broad focus benefits, sustained attention, and reaction time.

More specifically, these effects appear to be involved in balancing a cognitive mechanism known as prepulse inhibition (PPI) [1-4]. 

  • Prepulse inhibition is directly involved in regulating how quickly, and in what strength an individual responds to stimuli.
  • Healthy PPI is also thought to reduce overreactivity by providing a moment to fully calculate an appropriate reaction [4].  

Prepulse Inhibition: Nootropic Balancing Benefits of Matcha Green Tea

By elevating mood and focus, and possibly protecting from overreaction, it’s considerable that Japanese green tea may be an ideal candidate for boosting overall reactivity. Maybe most compelling, those modulating effects on PPI.

In the words of the researchers:

  • Compounds in green tea may improve reactions by helping to screen against trivial stimuli, “so that an individual can focus attention on the most salient aspects of the stimulus‐laden environment” [4]. 

All of this is to say, Japanese green tea may help you keep your eye on the ball. And if you’re more the type of person to spaz out (overreact), it’s assuring how daily tea could be thought to help keep a level head.

The Bottom Line – Green Tea for Reaction Time and Calm Attention

Finally, because the suggested therapeutic properties on brain waves, prepulse inhibition, and overall cognition from green tea, this ancient energy drink may actually lend against common mental health issues.

Often involving sensory overwhelm, and problems focusing on the right stimulus, it’s established that those processing difficulties may be at the root of cognitive issues – not limited to depression, ADHD, and general anxiety [5-8].

It’s intriguing that Japanese green tea may possess just the right mix of natural adaptogenic compounds to bring balance where needed, whether a competitive edge, or a more calmed attention.    






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[1] Mancini, E., Beglinger, C., Drewe, J., Zanchi, D., Lang, U. E., & Borgwardt, S. (2017). Green tea effects on cognition, mood and human brain function: A systematic review. Phytomedicine, 34, 26-37.
[2] Schmidt et al., 2014 A. Schmidt, F. Hammann, B. Wolnerhanssen, A.C. Meyer-Gerspach, J. Drewe, C. Beglinger, S. Borgwardt Green tea extract enhances parieto-frontal connectivity during working memory processing Psychopharmacology, 231 (2014), pp. 3879-3888
[3] Scholey, L.A. Downey, J. Ciorciari, A. Pipingas, K. Nolidin, M. Finn, M. Wines, S. Catchlove, A. Terrens, E. Barlow, L. Gordon, C. Stough Acute neurocognitive effects of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) Appetite, 58 (2012), pp. 767-770
[4] M. Ota, C. Wakabayashi, J. Matsuo, Y. Kinoshita, H. Hori, K. Hattori, D. Sasayama, T. Teraishi, S. Obu, H. Ozawa, H. Kunugi Effect of l-theanine on sensorimotor gating in healthy human subjects
[5] Sjöwall, D., Roth, L., Lindqvist, S., & Thorell, L. B. (2013). Multiple deficits in ADHD: executive dysfunction, delay aversion, reaction time variability, and emotional deficits. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(6), 619-627.
[6] Singal, A., Kaur, S., Tirkey, N., & Chopra, K. (2005). Green tea extract and catechin ameliorate chronic fatigue-induced oxidative stress in mice. Journal of Medicinal Food, 8(1), 47-52.
[7] Higashiyama, A., Htay, H. H., Ozeki, M., Juneja, L. R., & Kapoor, M. P. (2011). Effects of l-theanine on attention and reaction time response. Journal of Functional Foods, 3(3), 171-178.
[8] Kimura, K., Ozeki, M., Juneja, L. R., & Ohira, H. (2007). L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biological psychology, 74(1), 39-45.

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