Dietary curcumin counteracts the outcome of traumatic brain injury on oxidative stress, synaptic plasticity, and cognition

Exp Neurol. 2006 Feb;197(2):309-17. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2005.09.004. Epub 2005 Dec 20.


The pervasive action of oxidative stress on neuronal function and plasticity after traumatic brain injury (TBI) is becoming increasingly recognized. Here, we evaluated the capacity of the powerful antioxidant curry spice curcumin ingested in the diet to counteract the oxidative damage encountered in the injured brain. In addition, we have examined the possibility that dietary curcumin may favor the injured brain by interacting with molecular mechanisms that maintain synaptic plasticity and cognition. The analysis was focused on the BDNF system based on its action on synaptic plasticity and cognition by modulating synapsin I and CREB. Rats were exposed to a regular diet or a diet high in saturated fat, with or without 500 ppm curcumin for 4 weeks (n = 8/group), before a mild fluid percussion injury (FPI) was performed. The high-fat diet has been shown to exacerbate the effects of TBI on synaptic plasticity and cognitive function. Supplementation of curcumin in the diet dramatically reduced oxidative damage and normalized levels of BDNF, synapsin I, and CREB that had been altered after TBI. Furthermore, curcumin supplementation counteracted the cognitive impairment caused by TBI. These results are in agreement with previous evidence, showing that oxidative stress can affect the injured brain by acting through the BDNF system to affect synaptic plasticity and cognition. The fact that oxidative stress is an intrinsic component of the neurological sequel of TBI and other insults indicates that dietary antioxidant therapy is a realistic approach to promote protective mechanisms in the injured brain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western / methods
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / diet therapy
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Curcumin / administration & dosage*
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Synapsins / metabolism


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Synapsins
  • Curcumin