Pharmacological Effects of Turmeric on Learning, Memory and Expression of Muscarinic Receptor Genes (M1, M3 and M5) in Stress-induced Mouse Model

Curr Drug Targets. 2017;18(13):1545-1557. doi: 10.2174/1389450118666170315120627.


Background: Stress is involved in memory impairment through multiple mechanisms, including activation of hypothalamic-pituitary axis, which in turn activates release of corticosterone in blood. Cholinergic system blockade by the muscarinic antagonist, scopolamine, also impairs memory.

Objective: This study aimed to investigate the effect of turmeric (20mg/kg) on learning and memory and cholinergic system in a mouse model of stress along with cholinergic blockade.

Methods: Restrained stress was induced and cholinergic receptors were blocked using scopolamine in mice. Animals were treated with turmeric (turmeric rhizome powder which was also subjected to NMR analyses) and learning and social behavior was examined. Effect of turmeric on cholinergic muscarinic receptors (mAChR; M1, M3 and M5) gene expression was assessed by RT-PCR in both pre-frontal cortex and hippocampus.

Results: Ar-turmerone, curcuminoids and α-linolenic acid were the lead compounds present in turmeric extract. Increased serum corticosterone levels were observed in stressed mice when compared to the control group, while turmeric treatment significantly reduced serum corticosterone level. Turmeric treatment caused an improved learning and memory in Morris water maze test in stressed animals. Social novelty preference was also restored in turmeric treated animals. Following turmeric treatment, M5 expression was improved in the cortex and M3 expression was improved in the hippocampus of stress + scopolamine + turmeric treated group.

Conclusions: These findings highlight the therapeutic role of turmeric by increasing the expression of M3, M5 and improving learning and memory. Turmeric can be an effective candidate for the treatment of amnesia caused by the stress.

Keywords: Corticosterone; cholinergic system; scopolamine; social behavior; turmeric.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Curcuma / chemistry
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Learning / drug effects
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / metabolism*
  • Scopolamine / administration & dosage*
  • Scopolamine / pharmacology
  • Stress, Psychological / drug therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology


  • Plant Extracts
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • turmeric extract
  • Scopolamine