Vinpocetine Helps Lung, Heart, Brain and Spatial Memory Function

Space Secrets
Shed Light on the Issues of Aging
By Will Block

Continued from Space Secrets - September 1998

The literature on vinpocetine and space motion sickness is intriguing. The symptoms of space motion sickness include nausea, vomiting, disruptions of the neurovestibular (nervous equilibrium) system, influences on head and eye movements, loss of postural control, spatial disorientation and difficulty with locomotion. Regarding memory function, the following are decreased: visual-auditory reactions, critical (reasoning) abilities, spatial orientation, body coordination, spacial coordination and analysis, speech production, writing and reading.12 Space motion sickness also diminishes the ability to wake up on time and decreases vigilance. The symptoms of altitude sickness overlap those of space sickness, so it is not surprising that many of these items have been found to benefit from vinpocetine. [See Creating Mental Clarity - June 1998.] The principal reason for this is because vinpocetine has a profound effect on the brain, through its role as a metabolic enhancer and as a neuroprotective agent; it also helps improve spatial memory and spatial performance.

The view facing the Southern skies from the football-field-length ridge on top of the Matterhorn, just 2 feet wide, cutting like a knife into the sky.

One study in Aviation and Space Environment Medicine found there to be two prevailing theories about why space motion sickness has been a major problem for both the U.S. and Soviet manned space programs. One theory has to do with mismatching signals in the brain, and the other with fluid shifting in the brain. Vinpocetine was found to be successful in reducing the symptoms of space motion sickness, owing, in part, to increased oxygen and glucose distribution in the brain. A contributing factor may be its ability to enhance blood flow to the brain, especially in fine capillaries.

The effectiveness of vinpocetine on motion sickness was demonstrated in a rotation chamber study.5 Eight subjects previously found to be susceptible to motion sickness were kept in a small, confined cylinder which turned at a rate of six rotations per minute for a total of five hours. When compared to scopolamine (a long-used drug for the prevention of nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness) and placebo, vinpocetine was found superior. Its vasodilation aspects were thought to be the most contributory factor to the positive outcome.

The string of early-onset afflictions and infirmities experienced by astronauts is remarkably similar to those of altitude sickness: headache, malaise, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. While these symptoms generally disappear during long-term flights, more serious problems may arise. Growth hormone release has been found to decrease in space flight, just as it does in aging,13 and it has been well established, astronauts experience bone loss14 and muscle loss15 just as the aged do. Space flight seems to depress immune function and thus may affect aging.16 Studies have found that cellular immune responses of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell involved with immunity) appear to be depressed in vivo as well as in vitro. Cardiovascular function has also been found to be negatively affected by space flight.17 Sleep disorders and irregular circadian rhythmicity are also characteristic of both advancing age and manned spaceflight.18

Vinpocetine was found to be successful in
reducing the symptoms of space motion
sickness, owing, in part, to increased oxygen
and glucose distribution in the brain.

In both altitude sickness and space sickness there appears to be an acceleration of the aging process. So, as previously explained, when vinpocetine alleviates many of these symptoms, by restoring proper circulatory and memory function throughout the body and in the brain, it actually has an anti-aging effect. It may even be able to make older people act and feel younger.

Do you feel up to climbing a mountain today? Indeed, one study examining the effects of vinpocetine on the cerebral blood dynamics of middle-aged and elderly people found its vasoactive benefits improved brain blood flow and nervous system metabolism so much so that it helped reduce, and perhaps even reverse, the initial formations of brain atherosclerosis.19 Given the age-associated decline of cerebral hemodynamics and the concomitant degradation of the fine blood vessels, vinpocetine has a de-aging effect.

Space sickness is caused by spatial disorientation and brain fluid shifts. How it does this is another question. One theory, previously mentioned, is that fluid shifts in the brain. This is caused by the different stresses imposed by weightlessness, which alters the function of the vestibular apparatus or the balancing system of the body.20 Clinical vestibular dysfunction - loss of balance, dizziness, lightheadedness, vertigo, etc. - is associated with altered cochlear (inner ear) function. Researchers have found that this is similar to Meniere's disease, a recurrent and progressive collection of symptoms beginning with hearing loss, and progressing to ringing in the ears, dizziness and a buildup of pressure in the ears. Suggestively connecting space and altitude sickness, Meniere's disease has been know to be triggered by high altitude or mountain sickness.21 As might be expected, a study has demonstrated vinpocetine to be beneficial with Meniere's disease as well as tinnitus and sudden loss of hearing.22

Most of us do not spend our time at high altitudes, let alone in outer space. Yet there is a connection between what is above and what is below. Whether we are operating at the "farther reaches" (see Vinpocetine at the Peak - August 1998) of human endeavor on a mountain top or while conducting the business of everyday life, the mind is still our control center. When functioning properly, it enables our brain to communicate with our body. In this regard vinpocetine helps to consolidate our knowledge by tying memory function and response-ability together. This need for this role is especially clear for our mountain climber.

VincaClear may be one way to help assure
that the high aims of our aspirations are
not so high that we exceed the abilities
of our bodies and brains to keep up.

If aging is the "illness" that we wish to escape, or at least avoid as long as possible, memory loss is one of the most feared of the age-related declines. The Hermetic tradition asks the question, "Why can't we have the same benefits that the gods enjoy?" As above, so should it also be below. So why do we have to age? Vinpocetine addresses some of the problems posed by aging by helping to maintain proper brain blood-flow dynamics, decreasing capillary blockage in the brain, improving the brain's energy metabolism, and by otherwise helping to restore normal functioning to atherosclerotic plaque-filled blood vessels.23

Indeed there are studies that help explain why our vinca extract may be able to stave off space, altitude, and therefore, aging decline. Vinpocetine has been found to enhance a very special form of memory, unsurprisingly enough, called spatial memory. When rats are confined to mazes of one sort or another, vinpocetine can help them improve their performance, so that they can find their way about more easily, find their way out, or just deal with the stress of being confined.

Most of us stagger around all too frequently without a really good feel for the terrain. Down here on Earth, not missing a step in many everyday circumstances can be just as important as being accurate and agile on the Matterhorn or behind the controls of a space shuttle. Whether above or below, missing a step can mean early demise or sudden death. Think of the significance of every moment counting when you're behind the wheel of an automobile. So it is important to have good spatial memory and vigilance. Remember the rats in the maze boxes. The ones given vinpocetine had superior finding skills and better recall ability. In water-maze experiments, poor spatial memory could mean drowning.24

Being on top of a mountain or in outer space emphasizes our age, adds a lot of stress, and more than likely speeds up the aging process. Operating at a slower pace, down the gravity scale on the Earth's surface, reduces those stresses and thus may allow us to hide from, and more easily avoid, the knowledge of the effects of the swift pace of our unfolding years. We prisoners of time can avoid the discomfort of the knowledge of aging for only a short while. In a fashion, we are all cosmonauts, astronauts and mountain climbers waiting for aging to set in - even if we never experience the equivalent of space motion or high altitudes - if we're not fit enough, physically or mentally. A nutritional supplement containing vinpocetine may be one way to help assure that the high aims of our aspirations are not so high that we exceed the abilities of our bodies and brains to keep up. Just ask Dr. Jack Wheeler!


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