Nourishing the brain with magnesium: A new approach to cognitive performance

By Kelly C. Heim, Ph.D.

Cognition refers to our capacity to acquire and retrieve information, execute decisions, navigate our surroundings, solve problems and effectively communicate. In the clinical setting, these faculties are collectively expressed by two familiar terms—learning and memory. Both are mediated by complex adaptive processes in the brain, including adjustments in the function and abundance of neuronal connections known as synapses.

In the process of acquiring and storing information, new synapses materialize while others recede. Known as synaptic plasticity, this dynamic remodeling constitutes the cellular basis of learning. Memory is orchestrated by both synaptic plasticity and adaptive concentration of synaptic structures, known as synaptic density. Comprehensive nutritional approaches ideally optimize both synaptic plasticity and density to maximize cognitive performance.

Magnesium: A critical brain nutrient

An essential cofactor with extensive involvement in homeostatic and adaptive neuronal processes, magnesium is an indispensable participant in synaptic plasticity and density. Magnesium is so important to brain function that the body maintains higher concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid than in the bloodstream. However, when administered either orally or intravenously, magnesium seldom crosses the blood brain barrier to an extent that affords significant cognitive benefits.1

A research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), including a Nobel Prize laureate, has identified a form of magnesium that crosses the blood-brain barrier. Magnesium-l-threonate (Magtein™), effectively enriches brain magnesium when taken orally. Upon comparison with magnesium chloride, citrate and gluconate, only Magtein™ produced significant increases in the cerebrospinal magnesium concentrations of rats (Figure 1). Support for memory and cognitive function resulting from this enrichment has been demonstrated in both young and aged animals (Figure 2).2

Of particular interest to the aging population is the preservation of spatial memory. This facet of cognition enables us to locate our car keys, remember where our car is parked, where we live and how to navigate to a destination. When the team at MIT examined spatial working memory in rats of different age groups, the performance of aged animals reached the level of young animals after only 30 days of supplementation.2

Microscopic examination of the brains of Magtein™-supplemented animals have revealed salutary changes in synaptic density and accumulation of proteins involved in neurotransmission.2 Mechanisms may also include support for healthy glutamate receptor function and long-term potentiation, a key component of synaptic plasticity. These findings intersect a large body of preclinical research from research groups studying plant polyphenols, suggesting that these adaptive processes may be dually targeted by combinations of magnesium and polyphenol-rich foods.3 PhytoMemory, a newly developed, scientifically researched blend of polyphenols from blueberry, strawberry and spinach extracts, maintains healthy neurotransmission, receptor function and antioxidant defenses in neurons.4 CogniMag delivers a powerful combination of Magtein™ magnesium-l-threonate and PhytoMemory to provide multifunctional support for the cellular processes that maintain neurocognitive health. By supporting the synaptic architecture of both learning and memory, this formula provides an evidence-based approach to supporting and sustaining peak cognitive function.

Figure 1. Evaluation of magnesium concentration in the cerebrospinal fluid following administration of different magnesium compounds.

Figure 2. Magnesium-l-threonate offered statistically significant support for memory and cognitive function in both young and old animals. *p<0.05, ***p<0.001.


  1. McKee JA, Brewer RP, Macy GE, Phillips-Bute B, Campbell KA, Borel CO, Reynolds JD, Warner DS. Analysis of the brain bioavailability of peripherally administered magnesium sulfate: A study in humans with acute brain injury undergoing prolonged induced hypermagnesemia. Crit Care Med. 2005 Mar;33(3):661-6.
  2. Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, Huang C, Li B, Govindarajan A, Zhao MG, Zhuo M, Tonegawa S, Liu G. Enhancement of Learning and Memory by Elevating Brain Magnesium. Neuron, 65: 165–177, 2010.
  3. Spencer JP. Food for thought: the role of dietary flavonoids in enhancing human memory, learning and neuro-cognitive performance. Proc Nutr Soc. 2008 May;67(2):238-52.
  4. Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Denisova NA, Bielinski D, Martin A, McEwen JJ, Bickford PC. Reversals of age-related declines in neuronal signal transduction, cognitive, and motor behavioral deficits with blueberry, spinach, or strawberry dietary supplementation. J Neurosci. 1999 Sep 15;19(18):8114-21.

For educational purposes only. Consult your physician for any health problems.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Magtein Magnesium-l-Threonate, Patent Pending is a trademark of Magceutics, Inc. Magtein is distributed exclusively by AIDP, Inc.