Discipline: Biological Sciences
Subcategory: Physiology and Health
Jessy D. Martinez - California State University, Los Angeles
Co-Author(s): Amelia Russo-Neustadt, California State University, Los Angeles, CA
Aging is a natural biological phenomenon that can lead to a decline in brain function and increases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. The Indian medical system, Ayurveda, has a long history of implementing the use of Withania somnifera (WS) as an herbal remedy to promote healthy brain function over the lifespan and suspend the effects of neurodegeneration. However, there is a lack of long-term studies on the protective effects of WS on the aging brain. WS contains adaptogens that are believed to modulate activity in the central nervous system and improve cognitive function. Previous studies found that the hippocampus, a region important for learning and memory, may play an important role in administering the neuroprotective effects of WS. This study will examine the effects of long-term WS treatment on hippocampal dependent behavior and gene expression in Sprague-Dawley rats. Here, the hypothesis is that long-term administration of WS will improve cognitive function and reorganize several targets within hippocampal neural circuits. The Barnes Maze and a novel object recognition task will be used to measure two hippocampal dependent behaviors: spatial learning and working memory, respectively. RTqPCR will measure the corresponding gene groups: proteins involved in synaptic structural stability and neurotransmitter receptor genes involved in the preservation of cognitive function. Rats treated with WS should demonstrate improved performance at the behavior tests, substantial changes in synaptic genes involved in aging, and protein levels normally associated with younger rats. Results will provide a better understanding of the adaptogenic properties of WS on cognitive function and the molecular changes that occur within hippocampal neural circuits over long-term treatment. Further investigation will continue characterizing WS components to provide an advanced understanding of its neuroprotective and cognition-enhancing properties over the course of aging.
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Funder Acknowledgement(s): I thank the Russo-Neustadt lab for their aid in this project. The funding for this program is provided by the National Science Foundation under Grant # HRD-1463889.
Faculty Advisor: Amelia Russo-Neustadt, email@example.com