New Bioactive Compound Improves Memory

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Researchers from Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology suggested that bioactive compound from the Rhodiola plant can improve memory

The progressive loss of memory in humans severely impairs the quality of life of those suffering from such disorders. Moreover, no drugs is yet identified to prevent age-related cognitive decline. Now, a team of researchers from the Leibniz Institutes for Neurobiology (LIN) and for Plant Biochemistry (IPB) demonstrated the memory-enhancing effect of a plant ester, which is an active ingredient from the medicinal plant Rhodiola rosea. Traditional techniques stress on the use of plants to enhance memory performance. However, fluctuating drug concentrations can lead to incorrect dosages, especially in cases where drug is not known at all.

Rhodiola rosea, the rosewort plant, is preferred for its beneficial effect on mental performance. The team performed extensive biotests at the LIN in Magdeburg on fly larvae. The results were combined with phytochemical analyses by researchers at the IPB in Halle. The combined effort made it possible to isolate the substance ferulic acid eicosyl ester (FAE-20) that facilitates memory performance. Professor Dr. Ludger Wessjohann from the IPB, synthesized the pure substance in his laboratory to offer clear evidence of the effect of FAE-20. The team is focused on improving the memory of ageing flies. The research team from Magdeburg demonstrated that addition of FAE-20 to fly food improved the memory of aged fruit flies by a third compared to their non-treated counterparts.

The team’s learning experiments were based on classical conditioning, which states that animals learn to associate a scent with a reward. Subsequent test can reveal that whether the animals remember this association and if the scent is more attractive than before. Moreover, the team also revealed that FAE-20 prevents the age-related excessive accumulation of proteins at synapses in the brain of the fly. The positive effect of the Rhodiola plant in humans led the researchers to identify FAE-20 as a concrete natural substance, which helps to improve memory performance in old age. The researchers are focused on using these findings for medical dementia research. The research was published in Science Advances on October 24, 2018.

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