Naber Marnix, Hommel Bernhard, Colzato Lorenza S.
Scientific reports, 2015
Only few nutrients are known to enhance cognition. Here we explore whether visuomotor performance can be improved through the intake of the nutrient choline, an essential chemical compound in a vertebrate's diet. Choline is abundant in for example eggs and shrimps and many animal studies suggest that it serves as a cognitive enhancer. As choline is important for the communication between motor neurons and the control of skeletal muscles, we assumed that choline supplementation may have positive effects on action coordination in humans. A group of twenty-eight individuals ingested two grams of choline bitartrate or a placebo in two separate sessions. Seventy minutes post ingestion, participants performed a visuomotor aiming task in which they had to rapidly hit the centers of targets. Results showed that participants hit targets more centrally after choline supplementation. Pupil size (a cognition-sensitive biomarker) also significantly decreased after choline intake and correlated positively with the hit distance to the targets and the number of target misses, and negatively with reaction times. These findings point to a choline-induced bias towards action precision in the trade-off between speed and accuracy. The changes in pupil size suggest that choline uptake alters cholinergic functions in the nervous system.