Objective: In the ancient Indian system of medicine, Ayurveda, Bacopa monniera is classified as Medhya rasayana, which includes medicinal plants that rejuvenate intellect and memory. Here, we investigated the effect of a standardized extract of Bacopa monniera on the dendritic morphology of neurons in the basolateral amygdala, a region that is concerned with learning and memory.
Methods: The present study was conducted on 2½-month-old Wistar rats. The rats were divided into 2-, 4- and 6-week treatment groups. Rats in each of these groups were further divided into 20 mg/kg, 40 mg/kg and 80 mg/kg dose groups (n = 8 for each dose). After the treatment period, treated rats and age-matched control rats were subjected to spatial learning (T-maze) and passive avoidance tests. Subsequently, these rats were killed by decapitation, the brains were removed, and the amygdaloid neurons were impregnated with silver nitrate (Golgi staining). Basolateral amygdaloid neurons were traced using camera lucida, and dendritic branching points (a measure of dendritic arborization) and dendritic intersections (a measure of dendritic length) were quantified. These data were compared with the data from the age-matched control rats.
Results: The results showed an improvement in spatial learning performance and enhanced memory retention in rats treated with Bacopa monniera extract. Furthermore, a significant increase in dendritic length and the number of dendritic branching points was observed along the length of the dendrites of the basolateral amygdaloid neurons of rats treated with 40 mg/kg and 80 mg/kg of Bacopa monniera (BM) for longer periods of time (i.e., 4 and 6 weeks).
Conclusion: We conclude that constituents present in Bacopa monniera extract have neuronal dendritic growth-stimulating properties.