Oil palm phenolics confer neuroprotective effects involving cognitive and motor functions in mice

Nutr Neurosci. 2013 Sep;16(5):207-17. doi: 10.1179/1476830512Y.0000000047. Epub 2013 Feb 19.


Objectives: Phenolics are important phytochemicals which have positive effects on chronic diseases, including neurodegenerative ailments. The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is a rich source of water-soluble phenolics. This study was carried out to discover the effects of administering oil palm phenolics (OPP) to mice, with the aim of identifying whether these compounds possess significant neuroprotective properties.

Methods: OPP was given to BALB/c mice on a normal diet as fluids for 6 weeks while the controls were given distilled water. These animals were tested in a water maze and on a rotarod weekly to assess the effects of OPP on cognitive and motor functions, respectively. Using Illumina microarrays, we further explored the brain gene expression changes caused by OPP in order to determine the molecular mechanisms involved. Real-time quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction experiments were then carried out to validate the microarray data.

Results: We found that mice given OPP showed better cognitive function and spatial learning when tested in a water maze, and their performance also improved when tested on a rotarod, possibly due to better motor function and balance. Microarray gene expression analysis showed that these compounds up-regulated genes involved in brain development and activity, such as those under the regulation of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor. OPP also down-regulated genes involved in inflammation.

Discussion: These results suggest that the improvement of mouse cognitive and motor functions by OPP is caused by the neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of the extract.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Caffeic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Diet
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Hydroxybenzoates / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Palm Oil
  • Parabens / administration & dosage
  • Phenols / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Oils / chemistry*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Antioxidants
  • Caffeic Acids
  • Hydroxybenzoates
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Parabens
  • Phenols
  • Plant Oils
  • protocatechuic acid
  • Palm Oil
  • 4-hydroxybenzoic acid
  • caffeic acid